About Me

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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Please allow me to digress from the usual post featuring an apparatus at the sensory table. Rather, I would like to show you a 7-second video that highlights axiom # 7 on the right: Children will always find activities that are tangental to the apparatus itself.  Not only does it highlight the axiom, but leads to an unexpected revelation.  As you watch the video, ask yourself: What is the child doing?  And ask yourself: "Why is he doing what he is doing?  Here goes.

First of all, you need to know that I do not generally let children take pellets from the sensory table and put them on the floor.  Children naturally spill and often feel a need to transport the medium from one place to another.  That is a huge reason why I build apparatuses in the first place.  That is also the reason I always have a bucket next to the table so I can encourage the children who need to transport to "put it in the bucket."

So why did I just watch this two-year-old make a pile of pellets on the floor?  The reason is simple---and not so simple.  The main reason I let this child put the pellets on the floor is because he seemed so intentional.  That is the simple part.  The not so simple part has to do with making a split-second decision to not stop it, but to see where it leads.  That is the part that is not so simple because knowing when to curtail a behavior is both child and context specific.

What was this boy doing?  To tell you the truth, I did not really know.  As he walks away, he places the cup on the floor and, after he turns, he tosses the scoop down on the floor.  What did he do next?  He went to get a small dust pan with a broom that is always kept at the sensory table for sweeping up messes.  When I saw him get the broom and dust pan, I got the big broom to help him get pellets into his dust pan.  He did not take the broom out of the dust pan, but tried to scoop up pellets from the floor with the broom still snapped into the dust pan.  As you can imagine, that did not work well.  That was true even though I helped him with the big broom.  I then gave him the big dust pan and we were able to sweep up more pellets, but as he would attempt to empty the dust pan into the table, only a few pellets would make it into the table.

So why was he piling pellets on the floor?  I did not fully understand why until I showed his mother the video.  She knew right away what he was doing even though the video was only 7 seconds long.  And she knew immediately what he would do next: go get a dust pan to pick up the pile.  She said that ever since she can remember, her boy has wanted to clean up messes.  Only then did all his actions and the total scenario make sense to me.  I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of this child in my classroom. 

If I had tried to stop him as soon as I saw him piling pellets, I would have missed the opportunity for such a valuable insight.  I was surprised at myself for allowing the child to pile pellets.  I was even more surprised when I realised how intentional his actions were.


  1. Tom, I appreciate and applaud that you could give the boy that moment by just observing and ask yourself "What will he do next?"
    We are often too busy keeping the room running to stop and watch. Children open our eyes daily if we allow them. Well done

  2. Thanks, Maureen. I have worked in EC for over 30 years and seen thousands of children go through my classroom and it never ceases to amaze me how each one brings a little something different to the mix.

  3. Tom- gave you the versatile blogger award! You can see it here! http://howlongisthishall.blogspot.com/2011/10/two-great-blogger-awards-one-big-thanks.html love the video clip!