Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sharing The Love, Part 1

This is the 316th post I've written here since I began blogging in earnest last June, nearly one post every day, including weekends. I think 316 is as good a milestone to note as any.

I've been a writer longer than I've been a teacher, by far, so the fact that I've filled so many pixels doesn't surprise me -- my great strengths as a freelancer always were volume and speed. What does surprise me is how many people have taken an interest. I'd always imagined that I was writing for the families in my school, some friends, a few of my colleagues, and the occasional stranger who stumbled onto me through a Google fluke.

I started blogging because I was cleaning up my files and found several early childhood education articles I'd written for local magazines, newspapers, and newsletters when I'd first started teaching. I thought a few of them still read pretty well and a blog would be a good place to give them a second life. Up to then, I don't think I'd ever read more than a handful of blog posts, and those almost exclusively from the big blogs with thousands of readers. And I'd certainly never followed a blog.

I just figured that "blogging" was a slangy, slightly embarrassing way to say "writing," and that's how I approached it: as a writer who hopes he has interesting things to say about playing with young children. It's taken me quite awhile to realize that the thing that makes blogging different than writing is that it is an immediate and often intimate dialog between you and the other bloggers. It had never occurred to me that I'd want to actually read other people's blogs, but I'm now up to dozens a day and my circle is ever-widening. And if it wasn't for those other bloggers, I'm sure I would have given this up long ago.

I think I've been a slow learner when it came to this realization. I hope I haven't missed too many opportunities because of it.

Over the past few months, I've been flattered to have been given "awards," "shout-outs," or included in "memes" of various kinds by several other bloggers, all of whom I admire very much. The idea of most of these is to pass the love along by tagging other bloggers, something I've neglected to do because as Kitten Muffin says over at her magnificently messy blog Filth Wizardry, while accepting one of these awards of her own, "I'm not very good at reading instructions, let alone following them, so I'm just going to pass on some blog karma in my own way if that's ok."

Kitten Muffin's artistic, scientific, and constructive explorations with her two girls reads almost like some kind of Beverly Cleary novel full of messy adventures, silliness, and robust childhood. I've only recent started following Filth Wizardry but I've already borrowed a half dozen of her inspired ideas for Woodland Park. I love everything she writes, but I was particularly taken by this post, in which she discovers that her youngest daughter has been secretly mixing up batches of soggy toilet paper in the sink: "I kinda figured we might have to take this activity outside and let it run it's course before our bathroom sink is irreparably blocked and she starts to think that she has to hide from me if she wants to play with squelchy stuff." See? Just like Ramona, but without the scolding parent!

I've written about the talented Deborah Stewart here before. I first got to know her through her blog Excellence in Early Childhood Education, which is a terrific resource for preschool teachers, but she's also the proprietor of the Teach Preschool website, as well as the Little Fingers That Play blog which is where she shares her original music. She's recently released a must-own CD of 19 songs and 8 preschool chants, which you can order here. I don't know how she does it, but Deborah also manages the most useful and active Facebook fan pages I've ever come across. If a teacher or parent is ever stuck for something to do with their kids, a 5 minute visit there will give you a week's worth of material -- I swear she links to everything worthwhile!

I also recently received an award from Donna writing over at the truly irresistible blog Irresistible Ideas For Play-Based Learning. Donna and her teaching partner Sherry run an amazing preschool in Melbourne, Australia, and we're lucky enough that they have decided to share their experiences with the rest of us. That place is crackling with creativity, play-based education, and good humor. I feel like I've met a pair of teaching soul-mates.

Yesterday, Kiri, a public school Pre-K teacher and owner of the Elbows, Knees, Dreams blog tagged me in a meme asking me to reveal my hidden teacher talents, those things that don't go on a resume, but are important nonetheless. Most of the preschool bloggers I've come across, myself included, tend to concentrate on sharing the happy and upbeat, and Kiri does a lot of that, telling lovely, funny stories about her students, but she also doesn't shy away from the serious, painful, and stressful aspects of teaching. I wish I had the courage to write like she does. (The only hidden talent I've come up with so far is that where others hear a "noisy classroom," I hear "joy," but I'll work on finding some more!)

Three months ago, when I was still in a state of ignorance about the difference between writing and blogging, Karen over at PreKinders included me in her list of top 10 blogs for 2010. Holy cow! What a true honor. At the time it made me blush even though I was sitting home alone in my bathrobe. Karen has built an amazingly complete library of resources for preschool teachers and has recently initiated a forum for teachers to share ideas and answer questions. It really is a kind of one-stop-shopping for rookie and veteran teachers alike.

I feel like I'm missing someone here, in fact, I know I am, but I'm going to blame the blog fog from which I'm just emerging and hope no one's too upset.

Now to pass on the good karma. These are blogs that I regularly read and that both educate and inspire me:

If you've been reading here for any time at all, it won't surprise you that Jenny's blog Let The Children Play is at the top of my list. She is one of the most amazing internet researchers alive, and even better, she shares her findings with us. Jenny is a strong advocate for getting kids outside and for creating naturalistic outdoor classrooms. Simply put, if it wasn't for her, Woodland Park would not now have a new playground. Her recently completed blog series "How To Create Irresistible Play Spaces For Children" is a must-read for anyone who works with young children.

And along those same lines, Juliet over at I'm A Teacher, Get Me OUTSIDE here! is a playground and outdoor education consultant based in Scotland who has been a great influence on how I think about my role as a teacher. She is a tireless advocate for and bottomless resource for anything to do with educating kids outside.

I also need to include Marla McLean, Atelierista, who runs an amazingly creative alternative preschool within a public school. A talented artist and a passionate educator, she often takes my breath away with her insights into the children she teaches. And to be honest, I love coming across fellow travelers who look for opportunities to wear costumes even when it isn't Halloween!

Ahh! I've run out of time this morning. I'll have to continue passing on the love tomorrow! Happy reading!

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Play for Life said...

Oh my good golly gosh Tom! We're (almost) speechless. Definitely delighted. Incredibly thankful. Very excited. Genuinely inspired. Always interested and extremely humbled to be included in this post today and amongst some extremely inspiring company.

As relatively new kids on the block - we started blogging last September - we never imagined what was in store for us. Like you we hoped our kinder parents would be interested in what we had to share but we were certainly naive about where blogging would take us and the amazing sense of community we would feel from other bloggers.

People like Jenny (oh wow she is so amazing isn't she!) and Kitten Muffin, Deborah and Kirri, Juliet and Karen are people we too admire and draw so much inspiration from and then of course there's you Tom.

Not only are you obviously a wonderful teacher who is passionate about his students and a talented writer and artist but you've become our friend. Someone we look forward to catching up with every day. Someone we can rely on for a good chat. Someone with whom we can share our thoughts and ideas and learn from in return and most importantly someone we can have a laugh with.

Thank you Tom for being you! Thank you for calling us your "teaching soulmates" and thank you being our friend.

:) :)

SquiggleMum said...

This is a great love-list! I'm already reading and following many of the bloggers mentioned, but look forward to checking out those I don't and reading the next installment!

Deborah Stewart said...

Tom - thank you for including me in your list but I know that I have not only found a blogging buddy but a colleague and a friend. I have been truly blessed...

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

The love is mutual. And thanks for turning me on to some new blogs. Like you've said to me, this blog created community is amazing. I never imagined the connections and insight that I would gain. Lets keep the love flowing...

Unknown said...

'while others hear a noisy classroom, i hear JOY'
Is that not the best line ever? Fantastic. You make me hear the joy too. Every day when I come to visit I hear joy! And I am overwhelmed with thankfulness that you get to make such a huge difference in the lives of these precious children.
Overwhelmed with thankfulness because you hear joy.

Eternal Lizdom said...

I've thought about trying to put together a post and say something about my "can't miss" blogs but I'm always too scared I will forget someone!

Now you've given me some great people to go visit!

Lindsey said...

Thanks for the sweet words! My little ones have certainly got the spunky attitude and curiosity of little Ramona Quimby! It's fun to be around :)

Thank you too for all the links to new exciting places to visit!

Let the Children Play said...

*blush* You made me get all teary again Tom. Thank you so much for the kind words - they mean a lot to me.

Like Sherry and Donna, I am only a new kid on the block having started blogging in December last year. And guess who inspired me to start - you.

I had been searching for teacher / preschool blogs for ages and yours was the first that I found that sat well with me and I felt connected with. And through yours I found other blogs - like Deborah's and Kristin at Preschool Daze.

And then I found those lovely teachers from Melbourne and I felt like I'd struck gold!

I read you every day, tried your ideas at preschool and began to think I'd like to connect to other teachers as well. So I started my blog.

So you see, if I hadn't have found you I may not have had the motivation or confidence to think that I could have a blog of my own. And imagine how I felt when you were either the first or second person to leave a comment on my blog!

Through blogging I am a better teacher, and a more in touch and connected teacher, and a more motivated teacher - because I have linked up with you and many of those you mentioned, and many others besides.