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The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Perspective: What we can learn from 3-year-olds

The 3-year-olds I teach practice skills that adults haven’t mastered yet.

I was in a mood last Monday: The sky was overcast, my mind was foggy from a lack of sleep, I scored poorly on a pop quiz and my coffee tasted like creek water. With a scowl on my face and my arms crossed and tense, I trudged through the West End to work — and then I was tackled by a gang of bubbly 3-year-olds. I wasn’t in such a mood anymore.

I’m a political science student by day and an assistant teacher to a group of silly, smiling toddlers by, well, later in the day. But I’m starting to think that they teach me a lot more than I teach them. They might not know how to count to 20 — we’re working on it — but they know kindness, brightness, tolerance, patience and every quality of the undeniably pure at heart. It’d do the world a lot of good right now if we remembered that we’re all just giant-sized toddlers making life a lot more serious than it has to be.

My part-time job has nothing to do with what I want to study or pursue as a profession, and thank God for it. Working with children is an escape from the realm of 20-year-old hillterns who insist on carrying briefcases to class and international affairs majors who think they can end a war in an intro-level seminar. I can forget the homework I have to do, the meetings I have to attend and the various other college student what-have-you’s that line my Google Calendar.

At my other “school,” I trade ripped jeans and sweatshirts for overalls and whimsical earrings. The kiddos all call me “Miss Paige” and ask if my “mommy and daddy” dropped me off like theirs did or if they can come visit me at my house. We pass our days enjoying life at its most unrefined, sometimes painting pictures of fall leaves or running around in the local grassy park. I played the “Baby Bumblebee” nursery rhyme for them the other day, and they went absolutely nuts. My mom used to sing me that exact song when I was a kid.

There is something so unfathomably pure and unexpectedly simplistic about spending my mornings and afternoons with developing minds. They’re always excited for show-and-tell or for me to read them “The Gruffalo” for the fourth time that week. Between the laughs bubbling on the tip of their tongues and the definitive “I love you’s” they give out like their own currency, they have a soft spot for the little things. It doesn’t matter if it’s the milk they drink every day during snack time or the space they have to run around outdoors playing red-light-green-light — they’re grateful for everything.

And my 3-year-olds practice skills that adults haven’t mastered yet. They learn consent — that it’s not okay to touch someone without their permission. They process their feelings in a calm way, spending time in the “feelings corner” until they’re ready to rejoin the class. They know to listen when another friend is talking and to clean up their space after snack time.

Teaching children has made me wish I could send half of the adults I know to the “feelings corner,” myself included. My running theory is that perhaps we left our capacity to empathize and understand in our preschool classrooms. Let’s catch our bubbles, as I tell my preschoolers when I need them to stop talking, take a deep breath and count to five — it makes a surprising difference.

The children I teach find life and love in every single corner of their little world. They bounce back from anger, fear and sadness in the span of three seconds. When they fall down, they get back up and keep going. We ought to embody some of their resilience and unflinching earnestness.

Adults tend to get caught up in the minutiae of the week to week and swept away by societal currents. We focus entirely too much on lofty goals: professional, emotional, social. But kids have a better way of measuring success — they consider it a win if they eat all of their veggies at lunch or play a new game with their friends.

We should all take a page from their book, even if it’s one about pigeons who drive school buses or farm animals. When I grow up, I want to be a 3-year-old.

Paige Baratta, a sophomore majoring in political science, is the editorials assistant.

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