All I need to know in life I learned from teaching

Lindsay here. This is a photo of me in the morning, one that caused a small argument with Whit over taking it. But this is what I feel like in the morning when I stumble out of bed and know I have to go to school.

But, ahhh, Friday at 5 p.m. Now there is a different picture.

There is nothing that beats it. Except for the big ol’ diet coke I drink right after. And the post-work one-hour nap I just roused myself from, a nap where I forget about children, about teaching, about working.

I have now worked three weeks as a teacher, a job I still shake my head at in disbelief. It is something I thought I would never do. Yet life is funny like that. But I have learned heaps so far in my job. Nothing prepares you for it. Though I’m sure some classroom experience would have helped some.

Since some of you are teachers, much better and wiser than me I can promise you, I am going to share with you what I have learned so far–the hard way–about this trade known as teaching.

1. Always be prepared. And not just with something boring like reading and talking. These kids need entertainment. Thanks a lot, TV, Nintendo, and computer games. Be ready to sing. Ready to dance. Make jokes. All while somehow making them learn something.

2. Stickers are like gold. Little pieces of elementary currency. Those with the most win. And for goodness sake, don’t waste one by putting it on their work…”TEACHER! It must go on our sticker board!!!”

3. Kids like to play copy-cat. Even when they are not supposed to be playing. “BE QUIET.” “Beeee Quiet! giggle giggle.” And their propensity toward pitch is uncanny.

4. Dividing students into teams and pitting them against each other for points–and as always, stickers–is the key to getting the students to shut the H up.

5. Bingo is more popular with South Korean kids than American senior citizens. Especially when the winner receives stickers.

6. Friday Fun Day is now a national holiday in my seventh period class, a group of fifth- and sixth-grade misfits that I have to see everyday. As much as they like to smirk at me, ignore me and whine about work during the week, Friday is a day where we finally bond.

7. If I pretend the students don’t exist between classes and while I am trying to swallow my Korean lunch, they will eventually stop screaming, “MISS LINDSAY TEACHER! LINDSAY! TEACHER!” like I am seeing them somewhere unusual like the grocery story or downtown Gwangju instead of just after the class I taught them in.

8. Kids that can be the most fun, smartest and well-behaved one week can be the most headache-causing bunch of ill-mannered hooligans the next. “You have been bad. Very. Bad.” I told my second-graders today, carefully holding back other words under my breath that I fear will come out by the end of this year. (By the way, how do you keep your cool, you other teachers out there?) The class today simply glared back like they’ve never heard English before, holding their pencil boxes with bugs they caught between classes.

9. Always check the mirror three times before heading to school in the morning. Is there anything obvious those little midgets are going to comment on? Is this a fat dress? See-through pants? Strange shoes? If you think so in the least, the kids will most definitely second that opinion. Out-loud.

10. While most of the time I am simply just annoyed by the kids, there are some times when I am truly proud of them. About 85 percent of my kids now spell forty the right way. They also know it’s an even number. Some of my students now know what soil is. What soil erosion is. How many hemispheres the Earth has. What a Prime Meridian is. And I have a whole set of cartographers now, too. And they even know how to say it. Do you?


  1. #9 is the best thing to learn. When I was teaching (high school – a similar beast to 2nd graders), I would check my nose and teeth between every class, every day. Those kids would pick on you for weeks if you were caught with a hanging chad or spinach tooth. We miss you Lindsay NA!Lindsay M.


  2. Emily says:

    I don’t keep my cool, honey. I just lose it outside. Generally in the form of ugly words. I’m so, so proud of you and enjoying your writing. As always.em


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