Parents and teachers have mixed feelings about this month. Some look forward to it, some look at it with relief, while some sigh with resignation to the inevitable. Come September, it’s time for children to go back to school.
Working with children for the past few months has made me realize that if we just listened to them, they could teach us more about life than we could ever hope to teach them. While each child differs from the other, there are certain elements that are present in each in varying degrees. It can be exhausting trying to keep up with kids, but at the end of every class I marvel at their creativity, intelligence or innocence. In the process of teaching them, they taught me important life skills, some of which I’d lost touch with:
Ever since I started teaching English, I maintained that adults are more motivated to learn since they’re in class by choice, while children aren’t, since they’re put there by their parents. I couldn’t be more wrong. Children are or can be motivated to learn purely by their desire to learn. They’ve a thirst for knowledge so intense it just can’t be satiated. Somehow while completing the metamorphosis to adulthood we stop asking questions like ‘why’ and ‘how’, and begin taking the world around us for granted. Adults often treat children with contempt, secure in the arrogance that only they can impart knowledge. Perhaps it’s this attitude that stifles a child’s curiosity while growing up.
When asking a group of 5-11 year-olds what they were going to be when they grew up, I was bombarded with the following responses.
The ambitious one: “I’m going to be an interior designer, a teacher and an artist!”
The altruist: “I’m going to be a doctor for heart surgery!”
The dreamer: “I’m going to be an explorer and go to Mars!”
The five-year-old realist: “I’m going to be NINE!”
Dream big, but stay in touch with reality at the same time.
This 7-year-old boy’s gift for storytelling blew my mind to smithereens.
“Miss, I’m sending an email to my parents. They live on another planet.”
“Are you sure they’ll get your email then?”
“Yes, because I’m sending it on a shooting star. You can visit them on a shooting star too, if you want.”
I was speechless. This kid had a writer in him. At what point do we begin suppressing our imagination or our children’s? Why would we deny the world such wonder?
Care about the world:
While discussing endangered animals during a summer program, a group of 9-12 year olds was visibly upset and nearly moved to tears when informed of how many pandas and tigers were left in the wild (1,000 and 3,000 respectively, according to National Geographic). “Miss, that’s not fair! I want to see them before I die!”
Scorn defeatist attitudes:
Children don’t allow something as insignificant as a problem to hold them back. I’ve observed that every group of students I’ve taught, work together to come up with practical solutions to overcome any difficulties they’d encounter. They never failed.
Unleash your creative side:
While counseling at a summer camp, I always anticipated the art sessions just to observe how each child would bring out his/her creativity and resourcefulness while making the same thing. Most of them could work on their art projects for hours if they’d been allowed to.
Creativity could also run free in a different way. During a craft activity, an 11 year-old who was too lazy to paint the lizard he cut out justified it by explaining: “It’s camouflaging.”
Have a sense of humour:
Children are effortlessly funny. A bad day goes straight out the window with their exuberance and hilarity. I’ve been told for years that I look much younger than I am. Not to children apparently, as a bright 9-year-old once asked me: “Miss, are you from Ancient Iraq?” My age must have caught up with me two hundred fold.
In another instance, I caught hold of a hyperactive 4-year-old that couldn’t stay put and carried her back to her seat. Her ensuing statement made me let go for fear I’d drop her from laughing: “Miss, you’re giving me wedgie!”
Working with kids is definitely no picnic. But at the end of a long day, when a child tells you something like: “Miss, did you have fun with us?” or “Miss Zainab, I made this heart for you because I love you,” the exhaustion dissipates and you go through the rest of the day with nothing but a song in your heart and a smile on your face.