Things I Learned from Pre-Schoolers

Private academies, known as ‘hagwons’ in Korea, are rip-offs when you really think about it. While students pay a bunch of money to get a head start on their education, we as teachers get an education too, completely for free of charge. I have learned a lot from children, and you can too, if you only care to watch and observe them as carefully as they observe you. Here are some things that I have learned (or tried to learn) from preschoolers:

My first class in Korea - pre schoolers
My first class in Korea


Be Patient

Kids can be frustrating to teach, but at the end of the day, they are only kids. To survive as a teacher, you must learn to have an incredible amount of patience. A student might do something wrong a dozen times before they get it, but hey, that’s life and you are hurting them as much as yourself if you get angry about it.

From their perspective, they have an immense amount of patience for you too. They listen quietly, stop at your command, deal with your weird adult mood swings, and still love you when the bell rings. Follow their lead and have a little more patience when they stare at you blankly for the tenth time in a row. If you apply this to your every day life, you might find yourself happier, too.

Forgiveness Makes YOU Happy

Forgiveness is something that adults have a lot of trouble with. We tend to hold grudges about even the dumbest things. In the most extreme cases, we sometimes hate a person without even remembering what they did to us.

Pre-schoolers have this one figured out. When someone bothers them, they cry, say sorry, and are best friends within minutes. Kids are happy because they don’t dwell on every time someone tattled on them or called them ugly.

Maybe it’s just childish innocence, but they also forgive YOU whenever YOU chastise them unfairly. Every teacher makes mistakes and I am sure every one of us has a story about yelling at a student that probably didn’t deserve it. You might have been frustrated or just having a bad day, but the bottom line is, when they see you the next day, they still greet you with a huge smile.

Perhaps adults should take note. I read a quote that went something like, “forgiveness isn’t about making someone else feel good, it is about giving yourself peace of mind,” and I couldn’t agree more. If you forgive someone that doesn’t really deserve it, it will not affect them whether you do it or not. But believe me, it will make YOU a whole lot happier.


Be Positive, About Everything

Kids cheer about everything. You can show them the most boring activity, like tracing the letter A one hundred times and they will cheer at the sight of the paper. Sure, they prefer to play, as do adults. However, they seem to have discovered that it is better to be positive about everything than to pout.

Adults whine far too much. Work is too long. Breaks are too short. Food is too salty. Food is not salty enough. Dexter is not on until next week (bit of a dated reference, I know). Seriously, the whining can get more and more ridiculous the older we get.  If we learn to act a little more like children, maybe someday we will get our food and proclaim, “Yay asparagus,” and actually mean it.


Making Others Feel Special Makes you Feel Good Inside

Everyday when I walk by my classroom, even if I just saw my students 5 minutes ago, they cheer uncontrollably. Now, if an adult did this, they would be outcast as the weirdo of the group. There is no doubt that cheering at the sight of each other is a bit strange, but there is something to that. I, and every teacher I have ever talked to, feel good when we hear the happiness in a classroom’s heart. Children are constantly trying to cheer us up and feel good because it makes them feel good.

As adults, sometimes we forget that small things. A smile, a ‘hello’ in the morning, or a ‘how is your day going’ really goes a long way.


Working Hard is Cool

When pre-schoolers pick out their favorite student in class, they will almost always pick the kindest or the hardest working student. Hard work is cool, and while it is something that is still prevalent in much of the world, it seems to be losing its cool factor in some aspects of society.

Adults boast about how little effort they put into their jobs, their relationships, or pretty much anything in their life. Somewhere along the line, being lazy became the new cool. While I appreciate the art of efficiency, this does not equate to laziness. Ashton Kutcher really drives it home with this speech.


Some People are Sensitive, and That is Okay

Adults have a special way to deal with people who are overly sensitive, AVOID! Our spider-sense goes crazy and we quickly label them as weirdos and crazies which don’t make it into our inner circles.

Pre-schoolers however, handle things much differently. They end up apologizing more often, even if they don’t feel like they did anything wrong. Sometimes, there is no absolute right or wrong and it is a person’s feelings that are important. While I am not suggesting that we tolerate every over-emotional nut who hasn’t gotten it together by adulthood, it might do everyone a little good to offer a bit more sensitivity to those middle of the road people you typically don’t have time for.


First Impressions are NOT Everything

First impressions are something we are taught since before we even know the word ‘impression.’ In high school, college, and job interviews, it is those first few seconds that are forever tattooed on the other person’s mind. Is that fair?

Pre-schoolers often have a cry baby or two in the beginning of the year, but no one judges them for it. While everyone considers it too childish to cry by the end of the year, they haven’t been shunned for something they did so long ago.

I think the key is getting to know someone. We judge on first impressions because we don’t take the time to allow that person to adapt to being around us. While I probably am not going to convince any employer to give me a second, clean slate interview, it might be a good strategy to keep an open mind until at least the end of the interview.


Use Your Talents for Good

Sad to say, the smartest, richest, and most successful people we know, are not often the most giving and kind people in our lives. Many times, people hoard any special talent, skill, or fortune them may have, completely opposite to what pre-schoolers have taught us.

A 5-year old genius is usually trying his hardest to help his friends become successful too. He or she gets how to do everything, but that is not enough. They see joy in helping their friends succeed. Maybe we too can find some joy in using our own super powers for good. Stop being selfish and help your buddy color that page… I mean… get ahead in life.


Helping is Enjoyable

We often think of helping others as a task, something that we do because we have to, not because we want to. In American society for example, we dish out “community service” as an alternative to jail time for those who have committed a crime.

Children see things much differently. To them, being the ‘clean up helper’ or the ‘book distributer’ is a reward. They see joy and pleasure from helping others. Maybe if we stop thinking of helping as a chore, we too can be as happy as them.


Small Talk is Important

Have you ever listened to what children talk about? Let’s be honest, it is not the most interesting conversation in the world. While they are not going to debate about politics or reminisce about the finer things in life, they are experts in small talk.

Small talk is an art that sadly dies the older we get. If you are one of the few who have talked to someone about the weather in the past week, pat yourself in the back! Small talk builds relationships and bonds with other people which can be mutually beneficial in the future. Like a 5 year old, you might have nothing to say, but say it anyways.


Try, Try, Try, Try, Try and Try Again

We live in a society of quitters… we really do. I bet everyone reading this has quit at least one thing this year. Personally, I quit learning to play the piano. While I am not proud of this, it is a fact of adulthood that we quit when something gets hard.

Little kids never quit. They will try a million times and fail before they throw in the towel. I don’t know if it is an “I have nothing better to do” attitude or a fear of personal shame, but I have rarely seen any child say “nope, couldn’t do it.” Maybe if we acted like kids, we’d get more stuff done!


Just Share

Yes it belongs to you and yes you really don’t want anything to happen to it. Sound familiar? Adults are so possessive of their material belongings which is the complete opposite of what we teach kids. While I don’t suggest lending things to someone you know to be unreliable, it doesn’t hurt to share sometimes.


Just Dance, Shamelessly

Shame is one of those things that hold us back more than anything. Shame in dancing is probably the worst kind that exists. Sometimes, it is great to just let loose, no matter how ridiculous you may look. Pre-schoolers are not concerned about having the right moves, what their friends would think, or who they are out to impress. They want to dance because it feels good. I wish we thought the same way.


Your Friends Move, Life Goes On

I remember when I was younger thinking I would be completely devastated if I lost my elementary school friends. I thought the same thing in middle school, high school, and even after college. Many people never move on or take risks in life because of a fear that they will lose their closest friends.

Pre-schoolers don’t have much of a choice in this regard, but they handle it quite well. When someone announces that they will be leaving the school, odds are, they will never see their classmates again. Well, good luck, live goes on. In a few days, everyone is back to normal and has gotten over it.

While I don’t suggest that we become cold-hearted, in today’s world, it is really hard to completely lose touch with someone. If you are meant to be friends, the friendship will continue no matter what. Don’t let that fear hold you back from greater, personal growth.


Just be There for Someone

This is probably the biggest advice I should take myself, but it is so hard to know when it is okay to be there for someone. Sometimes we feel like we are not close enough to a person to offer condolences or comfort them in times of need.

Pre-schoolers have this one to a tee. It doesn’t matter how close you are, just be there. Seriously, if I ever lost someone I loved, I wouldn’t be complaining about “you’re not close enough to give me a hug.”


This list are just some of the things I feel like pre-schoolers are trying to teach us and am in no way saying I have mastered them all (not even close). Like everyone, I am sometimes too stubborn or prideful to learn the lessons I should. However, if we stop to listen, maybe we can learn a thing or two.

Sidenote: This marks the longest it has ever taken me to finish a post. It has stalled on and off for almost 8 months.