The Most Important Things in Life

Bottom line = times have changed, but children have not.  What they need and want is the same as it has always been.  Academics are one thing, but in order to get there, children have to be grounded in the most important things in life.

I have taught preschool for over thirty years, and I know children and what they need.  It’s all the little things that mean the most, as they become the big things in life.

A few years after I got my feet wet teaching, I read Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  That had a profound influence on my career.  His opening essay seemed to take all the stars in the sky and bring them to earth in a simple package; for me it validated what I was learning, and how I was teaching children.

I knew that the ‘little things’ mattered the most, because they were really the big things in life.  I felt renewed, and I followed my common sense and also my heart in teaching.  I paid close attention to children and I began to become a child myself.  That made me human to children.  In that way, I could truly teach.  And I do.

Here is his essay:

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

I still have this essay, folded and slightly yellowed.  I read it from time to time.  It’s important.  Today children live in a bigger world.  COVID has had a huge impact on their schooling.  There’s a much larger lens out there, and what they see is often tainted with lures that influence their thinking.  Sadly, those lures influence their heart.  If we, parents and teachers and adults, can stick with teaching children the important things, like Robert Fulghum did, that’s the best teaching we can do.  Being loved and being valued = learning love and values.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Book Review, books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, self esteem, teaching, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

115 Responses to The Most Important Things in Life

  1. beth says:

    isn’t it so very true?

  2. Ritu says:

    This is profound, and so, so true Jennie!

  3. Akriti Jain says:

    This essay is for life… for everyone…thank you for sharing this Jennie 😇

  4. What a great essay and so true.

  5. I love this and I especially relate to that last line of his essay, “be aware of wonder.” That’s what gets me through most days.

  6. Excellent.

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  7. I feel renewed just reading this post. Thank you!

  8. Mya says:

    Still holds true!
    PS I read the book Wish Tree and I loved it! Thank you for sharing that❤

  9. quiall says:

    Those words should be a mantra for all adults. We may have learned as children but we execute as adults.

  10. To be honest Jennie they are lessons that adults should apply.. and excellent guide by a man who understood how life works.. hugsx

  11. Wonderful words for life and learning… ❤ Thanks so much for sharing, Jennie! xo

  12. Excellent, Jennie. These are the core learnings that mean something.

  13. Don Ostertag says:

    What a fine foundation to start children off on the right path.

  14. I love that book and the list of learnings. I read that at my cousin’s wedding years ago, and it’s as relevant to adults as it is for children. Beautiful post, Jennie.

  15. beetleypete says:

    Still so relevant today. Good advice never gets old!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  16. Ellen says:

    A marvelous reminder for children of all ages! I gave each of my children a copy of this book upon their high school graduation. I was and remain especially fond of these words that are also found there : “Every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away. Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted. It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they leave in ours. Memory. The census doesn’t count it. Nothing counts without it.” Thank-you!

  17. dolphinwrite says:

    We love that there are still good teachers. However, unfortunately, the enormous propaganda and terrible curriculums have made the job nearly impossible for most, if not all, who understand what’s best for the children. This is why, having taught for many years, we now encourage home schooling, perhaps some private. But the parents have to know, in these days, everything that their precious children are exposed to in education. We wish them the best.

  18. Carla says:

    This is perfect Jennie. I was also given this book shortly after I began my teaching career and I still have it. That is the best essay ever. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. petespringerauthor says:

    What might seem pretty trivial to us can be enormous for a child. Kindergarten/preschool should be a place where kids learn social skills. Of course, it helps when they have a teacher they care about like you, Jennie.

    • Jennie says:

      The social/emotional piece is #1 in preschool and kindergarten. All the academics will fall into place if teachers give children a strong social and emotional foundation. Thank you for your kind words, Pete.

  20. CarolCooks2 says:

    Absolutely spot on not just for children but for adults as well…Perfect!

  21. lebaneselily says:

    I couldn’t agree more! I teach kindergarten too, and I 100% concur

  22. Jim Borden says:

    such a great book, but it’s been a while since I read it. thanks for sharing that wonderful essay, it’s such a good reminer about what’s important in life, as well as why preschool teachers are so critical in the development of children…

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  24. olganm says:

    Perfect advice for life. Thanks for sharing it!

  25. dgkaye says:

    So much truth Jennie in what you said about teaching them the fundamentals without filling their heads with outside influences at such an impressionable age. Loved the poem. ❤

  26. Dan Antion says:

    I remember reading this many years ago, Jennie. It still holds true.

  27. Darlene says:

    I have always loved this! A good reminder for all of us.

  28. bosssybabe says:

    Aww this is so sweet and makes me so excited for Charlotte to start JK in the fall next year! Robert Fulghum was so right and I will remember this forever! Thanks so much for sharing, Jennie! ❤️😊

  29. learning starts in the cradle and ends in the grave!

  30. Thank you for sharing this advice and essay, Jennie. This is so very true.

  31. Pre-school education is very important! It is learning with joy, out of interest and without pressure. Thanks for the reminder, Jennie! Enjoy a nice weekend! xx Michael

  32. It takes hard work from parents to give their children the grounding they need. -M

  33. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Please read this wonderful post from the excellent teacher, Jennie!

  34. A beautiful reminder here of teaching values, not just intelligence. Sure, ABCs and 123s are important — but of deep importance is compassion for others and ourselves. And such a beautiful equation that you wrote: “Being loved and being valued = learning love and values.” 🙂

  35. Jennie, this is such a beautiful, brilliant post. Thank you so much for sharing it. Hugs on the wing.

  36. delphini510 says:

    Absolutely wonderful post, Jenny, pointing out all the important things in teaching……and for life.
    I am so happy to read your words.


  37. This is why it is so distressing to see children taken along on political protests and rallies… nothing innocent or simple there…no iota of wonder. Let kids be kids. There is plenty of time for the awfulness of adult realities….Long live kindergarten!

  38. Array says:

    As a homeschooling mom this made me feel relief. These are some of the most important things our kids should be taught before the academics come into play.

  39. Thanks for sharing 👍😊

  40. Sladdxo says:

    I love this and so true! everyone should remember this.

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  42. Norah says:

    I agree with you, Jennie. This poem is so simple, it’s brilliant.

  43. johnrieber says:

    Jennie, saw your appearance….it’s terrific! Can’t wait for it to air!

    • Jennie says:

      That’s wonderful news! Thanks so much, John!! I’m not allowed to do a blog post until two days beforehand, and they will hopefully send me a group photo that was taken at the end of the show. Stay tuned!!

  44. I would be glad if you could point out the things you learnt

    • Jennie says:

      As a teacher, I learned to pay attention and listen to children. I learned that children need to be loved and given encouragement. The heart needs to be nourished before the brain can learn.

  45. The Hook says:

    I’ve reached the age where I realize how good I had it as a kid.
    Man, I’m old…

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