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.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

PERSONAL POST

I am retiring.

People have been asking me: "What is your plan?"  I have to tell them honestly that I have no concrete plan.  I do have a friend in Vietnam I want to visit, but I am sure that is not the type of plan they are talking about.  The truth is there is no grand plan.

I really had no grand plan when I started in early childhood over 40 years ago.  I lived it day-to-day and it evolved.  For the longest time, I thought I would only be in my own little classroom happily building sensory apparatus and doing the daily activities with the children.   Back in July 2010, I began to write this blog.  I never fancied myself as a writer and to this day, it is a struggle to sit down to write.  If the truth be told, the blog has given me an outlet to process what I experience in the classroom.  I am just glad other people are willing to read my musings and reflections.  I do intend to continue the blog and I hope to go back to some of my earliest documentation to see how my practice has evolved.  That is a plan.

About the same time I started writing the blog, I started to do presentations and workshops for others on sand and water tables.  Since I had a full time job, I would only do a smattering a year.   Over the course of five years, I have done numerous local, regional and national presentations and workshops.  Two summers ago, I even arranged an UK/Netherlands speaking tour for myself with the help of Juliet Robertson of Creative STAR Learning in which I gave 13 talks and workshops in three weeks.  Will I continue to do those?  TBD.  That is a loose plan at best.  

Also, about the time I started to write and do presentations, I also started to reach out to connect with others in the field locally, nationally and internationally.  If I have one regret, it is that I did not start that endeavor earlier in my career.  Its is hard to keep improving your craft in isolation.  I would like to continue to entertain and expand those connections.  That might be a plan.

Like many things in life it was an easy decision and a hard decision.

It was easy because I am getting older and the daily grind of showing up for work everyday, of getting up and down from the floor innumerable times a day, of lifting children up and holding babies is physically taxing.  When I have a night class, and I have two, and do not get home until 8:30 or 9:00 at night and then get up at 5:15 the next morning for class, I am not as energetic and new aches and pains appear out of nowhere. Believe it or not, being an early childhood teacher is a physical job.

It was also easy because I am one of the few early childhood teachers that has a decent salary with benefits that includes a pension and extra medical benefits after retirement.  All that is because I work for a public school on a teacher's salary.   Some might argue that a teacher's salary is nothing to brag about, but compared to the wages in most early childhood settings, it is significant, especially when you add in the benefits.

Oddly enough, it was a hard decision because of that same daily grind that has become physically taxing.  I have been telling people lately that there is a certain beauty in coming to work everyday.  The routine gives the work shape: the daily chat with the custodian---we are often the only ones in at 6:45---the setting up, the arrival of the children and parents, the immediate plunge into play,  the daily goodbyes, the closing of the room.  That routine keeps me sharp and forces me to keep growing.  Though physically taxing, the daily grind is never drudgery.

Mostly---and I bet you could see this coming a mile away---it is hard because the children are my lifeblood.  They have guided me over many bridges in play and in life.
When I am in the classroom with the children, nothing else matters.  Time, space and materials all flow together as the children inhabit each and every moment.  And I am able to forget everything and be in the moment with them.  And for that, I will always be grateful.

My last day of work will be June 14, 2016. 

21 comments:

  1. Oh Tom you will be sorely missed in the last classroom I am sure but I am glad you intend to still blog as I look forward to your writings. I am glad blogging etc. appeared at this stage of my career when I still (hopefully) have 35 plus years ahead of me. I wish you the best in your last 6 months & that your retirement allows you to rediscover yourself & enjoy having time for you. Kierna

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    1. Thanks Kierna. I do hope our paths cross.

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    2. Hi Tom, I agree with Kierna, you will be sorely missed, as will your intelligent discussions and observations of play.

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    3. Thanks Tess. It will be bittersweet.

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  2. Hi Tom,
    Although we have never met, I feel like I know you. I have commented on your posts a number of times, and you always responded in a most kind, gracious way. I have shared your blog with numerous colleagues. (I work in different schools each year, so have had the opportunity to spread your wisdom and creativity far and wide. :)
    I wish you all the best in this new phase of your life. I know the feeling about the kids and how they creep into your bones. Same here.
    I actually recently started a blog myself. If you care to have a look it is SEITtobelieveit.blogspot.com
    I wish you a happy and healthy new year and a big thanks for sharing yourself with the rest of us. You have been a great model and inspiration for so many, not only in your vast technical ability but in your philosophy and intellect which I always found so rich.
    Best,
    Eileen

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    1. Thanks Eileen. I have checked out your blog and have marked it as one that I will follow. Good luck and keep at it. For me it has become a way to think. Thank you for following and spreading the word and thank you for you kind words.

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    2. Thanks Tom.
      Best,
      Eileen

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  3. Dear Tom,you have been such an inspiration to teachers all over the world. I teach Kindergarten in the Netherlands and have Always loved your blog and your fantastic ideas. You will be missed, but we will continue to spread the word!!!
    Lots of love,
    Henrike (The Netherlands)

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    1. Hi Henrike, I am always surprised that others around the world find my work interesting. Like I said, I thought for the longest time, I was happy just being in my classroom with the children. Writing has opened up a whole new world to me and I am grateful for the feedback. Keep up the good work.

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  4. Hello Tom

    It's a giant step in the journey of life. I hope you have a wonderful last few months. I'm sure it will be a time for celebrating your contribution to Early Years practice and that this will continue through this blog, your presentations and workshops.

    2016? Bring it on!

    Thanks for a wonderful, inspiring blog.

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    1. Hi Juliet. I will have many people to thank for helping me on my journey. You are one of those people. The thing I am most afraid of is an emptiness without seeing and being with the children every day. Yikes! Tom

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  5. After 40 years, I'm in the same boat. Happy to retire, but also still wish I could have done everything better. Never enough time. You are such an inspiration. What a gift you have been here on your blog.

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    1. Thank you Nancy. 40 years! It has been quite a ride and I am sure for you, too. The more I know, the more I know I need to know more. Happy well- deserved retirement to you. Tom

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  6. Wow Tom, well said! You will be dearly missed, but you deserve this. You have earned it! Your sensory tables, your teaching, and your enthusiasm are second to none. Your teaching will continue though. It's innate in you and people/kids will continue to want to listen/play!

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    1. Thanks Molly. Your words are kind and generous. I am so grateful to been a part of ECFE and the lives of parents and children in St. Paul. They have sustained me. Tom

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  7. Thanks for sharing on this blog, Tom! I have enjoyed it and I hope you keep your promise to keep posting! Enjoy these last months of teaching, I hope they are full of sweet and funny moments. My best to you!

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    1. Thanks Anna. I have many sweet and funny memories already. What I will miss immensely is the relationships with the children that are formed through the daily interactions with the children. That makes these last few months even more precious. I am finding myself hugging the children just a little bit more. I have every intention of keeping up the blog but I am not sure how I will keep it fresh without that daily interactions with the children. One thing for sure, I will continue to follow your work at Sabot. Tom

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  8. Hi Tom,

    I attended your presentation at NAEYC in DC a few years back and chatted with you briefly after picking you out of the Wonderplay crowd in NYC Fall of '14. I wish you all the best and hope your years of memories of working with children keep you young in retirement, as children are the part that you will surely miss the most. Enjoy a well earned leisurely life!

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    1. Hi Jennifer. I remember. Thank you very much. Part of the beauty of working with children is that they live in the present. They don't know I am retiring so we are able to keep an even keel for now. One of my colleagues today noticed that I seem to be hugging the children more. Because they reciprocate so freely, it will be a glorious ride til the last day.

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  9. From reading your posts, I can't help but feel your retirement is a tremendous loss to the Early Childhood community. However, the lives you have touched through your teaching, your workshops and your blogs, will be forever inspired to make their own impact on the world. Thank you for your timeless efforts and for sharing your wisdom and experiences for the rest of us to grow from. Wishing you much health and happiness in the years to come.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. I am already feeling dis-ease about not being around children, my life blood. I do plan to keep writing and even more professional reading so hopefully I will still have something to offer the wider community in my retirement. I will also do a little more traveling for presentations and workshops. Again, thank you for your generous words. Tom

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