Back in October, 2010, a small group of early childhood education bloggers, including Marla McLean, Allie from Bakers and Astronauts, and Jenny from Let The Children Play, at the prompting of the brilliant Anna Golden of atelierista, began a kind of blogging round robin by way of exploring the question of why we blogged. It was part of a project we were undertaking together that lost its steam, but it was a fantastic exercise nevertheless, one that has, I think, really shaped my thinking about what I'm doing here.
Our summer program has been on a break for the last couple weeks and in case you haven't noticed, I've used it as an opportunity to write on topics further afield (e.g., democracy, gender, TV) than my usual narrow reflections on our preschool day, if only because I've not had a lot of "fresh" material with which to work. So as I've been in a more expansive mode these days, I've asked Anna if was okay for me to share one of my reflections from our group project. Some things have changed since then, so I've taken the liberty of editing and expanding upon it to fit the new realities.
I started blogging in the summer of 2009 out of pure ego. Prior to becoming a preschool teacher, I’d worked for 15 years as a professional hack writer and I was craving the jolt that comes from having readers.
When I first discovered Jenny’s blog (Let The Children Play) in the fall of that year, she was in full-on research mode, posting exciting posts about playgrounds and outdoor classrooms. At the time, I was the oblivious teacher at an urban school whose outdoor space was comprised of little more than a slab of asphalt attached to a mud garden. It had gotten so that our time outdoors each day was often as short as 20 minutes. I did not consider this a problem we could solve.
But here was a fellow teacher whose ego was so apparently un-invested in her blogging that she was freely sharing the wonderful fruits of her labors. Jenny was showing me a new world, a new way of thinking about the outdoors; it was an exciting, creative, ah ha experience that resulted in a complete revamp our outdoor space and curriculum by that spring, transforming our outdoor space from this . . .
. . . to this . . .
. . . from this . . .
. . . to this . . .
On Thursday, Charlotte and Thomas' mom Amanda and I were being interviewed for a piece that will appear soon on The Fremocentrist, our new neighborhood's local "newspaper." We were asked why we'd chosen to move from our old location, and as part of her answer Amanda talked about the entire "outdoor curriculum" that has emerged from those seeds planted by Jenny, explaining that we had grown to fill our old facility to its capacity. We just needed a bigger place in which we could transplant ourselves in order to continue the ongoing community exploration of a school that spends as much as its life as possible in our outdoor classroom (click on this link for more pictures and description). So now we play and learn here as a direct result of Jenny's inspiration:
Simply put, the experience has made me a better teacher and our school a better school. And Jenny is not the only one.
As I began to get in touch with more fellow bloggers I found myself in a world of people willing and able to share insights into children, into teaching, into the way education does and should work, each in her own way, motivating me as a teacher, improving our curriculum, or otherwise touching our community. The experience has brought about a kind of renaissance in our school.
I now blog less from ego (although that remains a part of it), but rather mostly in the hope that my posts inspire other teachers the way Jenny inspired me.
I do consider Teacher Tom’s Blog to be a type of documentation of what the Woodland Park Preschool community does together, albeit one from my own point of view, with all the baggage that implies. Many of the parents tell me they read the blog. Knowing that these parent-teachers who work with me daily in our cooperative preschool are reading my words forces me into a level of honesty and introspection that I could never attain in a private journal. I love when parents quote a post back to me in class, or when one of the kids, as Lachlan did one day, says, “Post me again, Teacher Tom!”
It’s remarkable that blogging allows even the kids an opportunity to review the documentation, especially when there are photos, and start to consider not only what part they play in the story of our school, but what part they want to play going forward.
I know that’s a question I’ve come to ask myself every day.