By Jenna Breiner, FC 19 Costa Rica
If you would have told me a year ago that I would be working with kindergartners during my year of service, I would have laughed and said “yeah, right.” It’s not that I don’t love kids of that age – I do. I have just always worked with older children, who tend to have a little bit more focus and a few less tantrums. All of my previous interactions with kindergartners have been very brief, where I didn’t have to discipline or really guide them in any way, shape or form. So finding out on my first day that I was going to work with 13 little ones every morning came as quite the shock. But these few hours every day have actually become one of my favorite parts.
While it definitely hasn’t been easy (I’ve had to learn how to interact with young children across a language barrier to gain their trust and respect), little by little, I am getting there. And learning a few things [every day] in the process:
1. So many things in life are temporary. Seriously. Kids can be sobbing one minute and hysterically laughing the next. Maybe this is due to the fact that children get distracted more easily, but still. Throughout my life, numerous difficult situations have arisen that, at the time, seemed never-ending. But they passed. And the stress and torment during the tough times are almost never worth it in the end.
2. Patience really is a virtue. There are multiple times throughout the day where I just want to scream out of frustration: Why isn’t this kid listening to me? Why can’t they remember how to say ‘blue’ in English? Why can’t I get my point across in Spanish? But it all comes back around to patience, which requires constant self-discipline. But once we begin to master it, life becomes much more enjoyable.
3. We must take time to notice and appreciate the little things. Whether a kid notices how many legs an ant has or that the playground was recently painted a different color, they always notice small changes and the miracles that surround us every day. Seriously, think about it. How much more beautiful would life be if we were to really see these small miracles again?
4. It’s acceptable to have meltdowns every once in awhile. Okay, maybe we can’t pout or throw ourselves on the ground kicking and screaming, but we can definitely have our moments. We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to them. And if that includes a meltdown, so be it. In the grand scheme of things, as long as we don’t take one step forward and two steps back, we are doing just fine.
5. It’s almost never THAT serious. Throughout the day, I find myself calming kids down quite often – yes, you colored outside the lines, or forgot the lyrics of the song, or someone took one of the legos you were playing with – but everything will be okay. I will not deny that it is so easy to get caught up in the moment, but if we could just see how minor most things are in the grand scheme of things, we would be able to enjoy the many other things we have in front of us.
6. Every day is a new day. No matter what happened yesterday, it’s over now. Children don’t carry baggage from one day to the next, and I think we can learn a great lesson from them. They always start fresh. Always. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” -L.M. Montgomery.
I can already sense that working with these kids has changed the way I tackle certain situations. To be honest, there are days that dealing with whiny kids is the last thing I feel like doing, but I do it anyway. Not because I committed to a year of service and ‘have to’, but because I want to. And because when little moments of victory present themselves, whether in the form of a quick hug, compliment or statement, the pros outweigh the cons by a lot.