children playing

6 Life Lessons Learned from my First Graders

children playing

Children tend to live in much different mental realms than us adults and mostly I think they are better off for it. I’ve often looked back at my memories of the thoughts I had as a child and yearned for the simplicity while being thankful that I don’t have to deal so much with figuring out who I am as much anymore. Most happy kids can live without hesitation and with enthusiastic attitudes and an eagerness to learn about everything. As many teachers will affirm, kids can teach us about as much as we try to teach them. I’ve compiled my favorite lessons here from the last ten years of teaching first graders.

Try to stand out in the crowd with confidence.

Some kids worry about fitting in with the way they dress or how their parents do their hair, but I had a little girl who loved anything that sparkled and was bright. She loved to dance, have bright pink, yellow and blue clip in hair extensions.

Get a nap in more often.

Naps can do wonders for the attitude of a six year old, but we often forget how much strength we can gain from a 15 minute power nap. Set aside some valuable time just to yourself mid-day and take a nap or just meditate.

Exercise should be play time.

Stop referring to exercise as a chore and take a hint from the first graders: do it because it’s fun and not because it’s healthy. Kids exercise whenever they get a chance. They climb trees, play tag and other games all the time. Somewhere along the line we decided that we could only participate in “grown up” workouts, which can feel like a boring chore. It’s like we forgot how great it feels to let loose and just play without a purpose for our actions. Find something you actually enjoy, for me it is playing tennis, hiking and yoga and do it every day.

Following the rules is overrated.

Creativity can often be squashed by strict following of the rules. We teachers can all recall some hilarious “wrong” answers to homework questions which exemplify thinking outside of the box. This happens to be a great skill for children to have and foster, and one that we should embrace in ourselves.

Don’t worry what other people think.

Dancing and singing your way through life as if you don’t care who is watching is a much better way to live than being controlled by inhibitions. While adults are usually held up by hesitation or fear, children dive head first into every situation, improvising their approach when they must and making friends along the way. It’s nearly impossible to get things perfect on your first shot at something, and the fear of mistakes shouldn’t be a reason to deter doing it.

Find good opportunities in the aftermath of a mistake.

My first graders hardly ever beat themselves up when they make a mistake. Instead of reliving what they could have done better to avoid the mistake, they look at the outcome with curiosity and openness. Errors are often gateways to new experiences and educational growth.  They may also expose voids in products and services that could lead to lucrative business opportunities.

I’ve often looked at the lessons I’ve learned over the last 10 years and felt a deep appreciation for children and their beautiful minds. We can all learn from them and live a little bit more courageously, enthusiastically and more happily ever after.

Fiona Mayberry is a first grade teacher in Boise, Idaho and author at She believes in the power of knowledge and enjoys learning as a way of life. Follow her on twitter and Google+.