13 things working in early years taught me

We can learn a lot from early years, says Lisa Jarmin, from the joy of conkers to never putting Play-Doh down the toilet

Lisa Jarmin

We can learn a lot of important lesson from early years, says Lisa Jarmin

There’s something really special about teaching young children. During my time working in EYFS and KS1, I’ve felt privileged to be the one who helps them to discover the world.

Watching their faces light up when they rub yellow and red paint-covered hands together to make orange is a delight, as is the lightbulb moment when they first "get" phonics or count to 100 without stopping.

But it’s not just witnessing the awe and wonder that makes it so special – because there is a lot to be learned from the youngest pupils in the school, too.

For example, one February one of my pupils had something exciting to tell me: “My Dad says that at Easter you can buy these chocolate eggs that have got sweet stuff inside that looks like yolk and you can actually eat them! WOW!”

The wisdom of an early years teacher

It turns out that Creme Eggs are as exciting to five-year-olds now as they were to me when I was a child, and this reminded me that however miserable I feel, I always have something to look forward to, even if it’s just a chocolate egg. Young children remind you that spring will always arrive, Santa will always come and, sooner or later, it will be time for ice cream.

Not everything that I’ve learned from pupils has been that profound, but it’s all been useful in one way or another. So for the newer teachers among you or those of you further up the school, here is my list of great truths:

1. If you leave the room and come back in wearing a hat, doing a comedy walk and claiming to be somebody else, 80 per cent of five-year-olds will be on board with that.

2. Didn’t come first in a race? Never mind – you still get to be the winner by saying, “Yeah, well, we’re doing ‘first the worst, second the best, third the one with the hairy chest today.'” Of course, then there’s the obligatory argument because everyone wants to be the one with the hairy chest, but at least you didn’t lose.

3. Never do up a boy’s shoelaces if they are damp. There is a reason that they are damp and it’s not a pleasant one.

4. Play-Doh can really clog a toilet.

5. PVA glue will easily wash out of school sweatshirts but it’s amazing how well it adheres to an 80 quid French Connection skirt.

6. Covering vomit with sand does not make it smell any better.

7. Lunchboxes are a treasure trove of delights: Barny Bears are the snack of the Gods and a Dairylea Dunker is an irresistible guilty pleasure. Don’t bother with Cheestrings though – it’s like eating rubber cement.

8. Aren’t conkers brilliant?

9. You cannot rely on a six-year-old not to dob you in. You can exhaust yourself teaching Ofsted-pleasing lessons all week that fly under the management radar only to receive an unscheduled classroom visit from the head at the end of the week as you gleefully settle your Year 2s down to a bit of light colouring in and some Lego. Why? Because some loose-lipped member of your class has told them that it’s "Feet Up Friday".

10. Five Little Speckled Frogs is still a total banger.

11. You can sharpen a pencil for an entire morning if you have the necessary drive and determination.

12. Nobody’s really that arsed about Biff, Chip and Kipper or their magic key.

13. There is still nothing more exciting in the entire world than that moment on a freezing cold day when snow starts to fall from the sky.

And we all know what follows snow, don’t we? There will be tears over cold fingers, an unfortunate incident with the glitter during your snow-inspired artwork, then rivers of slush in your classroom from 28 pairs of discarded wellies. Chin up, though – it’s nearly time for a Creme Egg.

Lisa Jarmin is a freelance writer

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Lisa Jarmin

Lisa Jarmin is a primary teacher and freelance writer

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