Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Teaching Kindergarten

My first job out of college was teaching kindergarten in Chestnut Hill, MA. The lessons I learned in that classroom have informed my professional and personal lives in many ways.
  1. If you want someone to do something, offer them two choices which both yield your desired result.
    In a kindergarten classroom this might look like, "Would you like to put the blocks away now or in five minutes?" In the adult world, you might say to a colleague, "Does it work better for you to get me the data I requested this morning or this afternoon?" Either way the person is putting the blocks away/getting you the data, but they feel empowered and positive rather than harassed and bossed around.
  2. Timeouts are a good thing.
    The reason timeouts (or, "taking a break," as we called them) work well in classrooms is because sometimes kids get too overwhelmed and overstimulated, leading them to act out. Well adults get overwhelmed and overstimulated too! It's important to know when you need to unplug or take a break, and having the self-awareness to be able to take a quick break in the middle of something else, in order to be more fully present for whatever you're doing, is a good thing.
  3. You should eat a healthy lunch that contains a little bit of protein every day.
    It was amazing to see the difference between the kids who brought healthy lunches with protein versus the kids who ate sugary, less-healthy food. By 3 PM, the latter group was sluggish and exhausted, while the former group was still eager to go tackle the monkey bars.
  4. Yelling "Be quiet!!" at a group accomplishes nothing.
    It just makes you look crazy. More effective is getting very quiet and making eye contact with everyone until they get the message that it's time to listen to you.
  5. Reading a story to a children is first rate training for any sort of entertainment work.
    As a result of my extensive time spent reading books to groups of children, I am a master of teleprompter reading--it's basically the same skill set. Reading to kids is also a good way to get comfortable being silly in front of people, which comes in handy in life more than you might think.
  6. Setting limits is hard to do, but good in the long run.
    It is surprisingly painful to tolerate having a five-year-old get really mad at you for telling her she can't eat paste. But, as her teacher, your job is to protect her, so you have to shut down the paste feast. Sometimes you have to tolerate someone temporarily hating you in the name of the greater good.
  7. When you're managing a group, be extra aware of transitions.
    The times when everyone is moving from one place to another, or switching from one activity to another is when everything tends to go to shit. People get distracted, start talking to each other and struggle to focus. Even if you're working with adults, it's really helpful to give people a five minute warning before you start doing something new.
  8. Pee BEFORE you put on your snowsuit.
    Do you really want to undo and redo all those buckles and snaps again??