Wisdom from teaching 6-year-olds

Over the weekend I gave a class to a group of first-graders at a non-elite, everyday school as a volunteer tutor. I did that because a good friend of mine one day got this crazy idea to help children from underprivileged families who couldn’t afford to hire expensive private tutors like myself. I’m no saint. I’m gonna admit I said yes as a personal favor more than anything else. My friend and the school principal were a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to adapt to teaching children this young because I specialize in teaching teenagers and adults.  I assured them, “Trust me. Kids love me.” But I could tell they didn’t believe it. Oh boy, were they wrong.

The moment I stepped into the classroom and saw those happy faces, I knew we were gonna have so much fun. I planned two games with them. From my experience teaching kids their age and playing with my nephew and niece, I knew kids love nothing more than games.

I separated them into two groups and gave them funny names to break the ice, so eventually we got Team “A” and Team “B”. In the first game, Team A was kicking asses. One girl, whose name was also Nicky, from Team B was particularly frustrated. She probably thought all her teammates were idiots. I told her not to be sad as they could still catch up in the second game.

The second game replied heavily on team work, more so than English. Surprisingly, Team B caught on very quickly and won almost every round. I could tell Team A was getting anxious looking at the score board. Like in a TV show, the last round turned out to be a tie-breaker. Two girls from Team A told me they wanted to stop playing. I said to them,

“If you quit now, you’ll only lose. If that’s what you want, you can go back to your seats. Do you wanna quit?”

They looked at me and immediately said no, so I resumed the game. This last round was proven to be the redemption of Team A. They won and become the winner of the day by just one point. They were ecstatic. I told the team in front of their principal,

“See? I told you you stood a chance as long as you kept on trying. Had you quit just now, you would never have won. We can’t give up so easily without trying our best in life.”

Of course, Nicky from Team B was particularly upset. She showed me those puppy eyes which made me go, “Awww…” I asked them if they had fun. Though they lost, they all shouted, “YESSSSS!!!” Loud and clear. I reminded them they could start afresh next week, and they just really looked forward to our next class meeting.

Before we ended the lesson, we took a group photo together. They all wanted to stand next to me and be close to me regardless of the team they belonged. I could tell they had enjoyed the class as much as I had. Even though I gave this class for free and having to wake up early on Saturday really sucked, I’m glad I did it because it reminded me why I loved education once again.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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