There are two memories I have of the last day working with this class in 2008 that sprung to mind when thinking about what I love about young children, and in particular, why I love this age. The class teacher was going to be leaving this school for another job after eighteen years working there. During the end of year assembly, the teacher was invited to sit at the front of the room. Our class had never been to a school assembly before, because it is not realistic or reasonable to expect children this age to be able to sit still and be quiet for twenty minutes. So this was a new experience for them, which inevitably meant that they had questions, and it is the most natural thing for children to ask questions as soon as they come to mind. One boy in particular had a lot of questions about what was going on, and I loved that his questions weren't stifled by the fact that no one else was talking, or because he was aware of the expectations from adults that he should be quiet. He was oblivious to the glare of the head teacher, indicating her disapproval that he was talking when he should have been listening. I couldn't help but smile at his understandable curiosity. I loved that he questioned what was taking place, and didn't yet understand about authority and expectations. To me, this moment signalled something of the beauty of freedom that should characterise childhood.
The other memory I have of this end of year assembly was of the reaction of one of the girls in the class to what was happening. We had talked a lot with the children about all of the changes that would be taking place as their first year in school came to an end, and they knew that their teacher would be leaving to go and teach children in another school. This one girl in particular was incredibly sensitive and emotionally aware, and the anticipation of all of the changes that lay ahead for her meant that her tears were never far away in that last week of term. I had deliberately sat next to this girl during the assembly, knowing that she was feeling fairly delicate and might need some support. She never took her eyes off our teacher as other children in the school presented her with gifts, cards, poems and flowers from the school community. As the teacher started to silently cry, this girl did the same. Through tears, she whispered to me, 'I'm just so sad because Sophie is feeling sad.' To watch a three year old empathise so powerfully with an adult was just amazing to see. Earlier in the year, I had watched this same girl gather up a bouquet of artificial flowers from the home corner take them to a child who was sitting on my bench crying, and sit with her arm round them, silently giving them flowers and sitting with them until the tears passed. Developmentally, it is quite normal for children at this age to still be fairly egocentric in a lot of their behaviours, so to see her be so overtly aware of other people's emotions was all the more powerful to me.
In that first year of working with three year old's, and all of the years since, I have loved the opportunity to see children's characters form; to see them explore and try and make sense of the world around them, and to have the privileged position of being an educator, leading them in their learning and explorations. I love their exuberance and inquiring minds. I love marveling at how much they have learned in just a few years of life, and wondering at what kind of adventures they might embrace in the years that lie ahead. I could share so many stories of my time teaching in Early Years that has shaped my love of this age, but for now, these words will do.