Friday, June 16, 2017

A Proud And Grateful Cowboy

I've been writing here, almost daily, for eight years. When I posted on Teacher Tom for the first time, I don't think I'd ever even read a blog before. As most of you know, the word "blog" is a shortening of the term "weblog," and the original bloggers tended to treat theirs as a kind of online, public diary, which is how I started out as well. And in most ways, it's how I still use this platform.

You would think, by now, I would have run out of things to say, and it is true, that when I go back through the archives I see a tendency to repeat myself, hitting on the same themes over and over, even phrasing things in similar ways. If I dig deep enough I can find contradictions, of course, because part of any diary is to record one's personal journey and I'm certain that I would have dropped this project long ago if I weren't always in the process of evolving as both a teacher and a man.

Over the years I've found that most bloggers start strong, then as the weeks and months pass, tend to leave longer and longer spaces between posts, finally petering out. As part of attempting to promote my new book, Teacher Tom's First Book, I've been seeking out those early childhood education blogs I've lost track of over the years only to find a lot of dead ends. I doubt their demise had anything to do with running out of things to say: my guess is that the self-imposed "pressure" of posting on a regular basis became too unpleasant, because I simply can't imagine anyone in our business ever running out of things over which to ponder, enthuse, advocate, or grow.

Probably the main reason I continue to blog is that I continue to be a full-time, classroom teacher, which means there is always something to write about. I tried other jobs and professions prior to becoming a preschool teacher and left every one of them largely because at some point I ran out of "things to say." In other words, those other jobs tended to become routine and predictable, and if there is one thing for which I'm temperamentally unsuited, it's the tedium of rote. No one could ever say that about teaching preschool, at least the way we do it at Woodland Park, where the children lead the way. When kid's play, they are turning the world over and over, examining all it's facets; they are opening it up to look inside; they are discovering it's great beauty and grotesque ugliness for the first time. Almost daily, their explorations reveal views into the world that I've never glimpsed before, usually revealing it as more lovely than I previously thought, sometimes even shaking my soul. These are the things I try to write about.

I would be lying to say I'm not proud of the blog. I am proud of how long I've done it. I am proud that people read it. And I am proud that even as I may tend to repeat myself, I have continued to grow as a teacher and human: the evidence is in the archives. I am grateful to everyone who reads here, past, present, and future. I am grateful for the families of our Woodland Park Cooperative School who continue to support me. And I am grateful for the unexpected opportunities this platform has given me.

In less than a month, I'll be winging my way to Australia, where I look forward to spending time with my colleagues Down Under. I'd love for you to join me.

In the fall, I'll be flying to the UK, then to Iceland for the International Play Iceland Conference. I'd love for you to join me.

Indeed, I've had the opportunity to travel the globe in my role as Teacher Tom, having been all over the US and Canada, as well as Greece, New Zealand, China, and England.

And of course, I've now published a book.

It might sound glamorous, I know it would have looked that way to me eight years ago when I first sat down in my PJ's to post here for the first time, and sometimes it is. There is nothing like the thrill of standing before an audience of several hundred enthusiastic early childhood educators, peers and colleagues who have come together in the expectation of continuing to evolve as both teachers and humans. But it's also exhausting, challenging, even frightening. And above all, there is a part of me that regrets every second I'm away from the classroom, which is the source of every bit of professional success that has ever come my way.

If there is one thing that blogging has taught me it's that I'm blessed. I've found something I love, that rarely feels like rote, and that feeds both my pocketbook and soul. As Johnny Cash sang, "I'm no slave to whistle, clock, or bell/Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall or street." That's his version of a line from Badger Clark's poem "A Cowboy's Prayer."

As a boy I learned to dream a lot of dreams, none of which were to become a teacher, although I did often dream of being a cowboy.

(I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!)

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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