Sunday, November 27, 2011

And Please Know, I Do Love You

The difference between my neuroses and everyone else's is that mine make sense. ~Teacher Tom

I know I'm a jerk. I wish I wasn't, but I am. I've always been a poor correspondent and there are days when this whole online community thing feels a little bit like one big obligation to "stay in touch." This isn't to say that I think I'm right or justified. It's one of my neuroses, one that goes hand-in-hand, I think, with my phone phobia. People say to me, "But Tom, you write all the time. Can't you just drop me a line? Come on, man, get with it!" And they're absolutely correct. 

Please accept this post as an apology for all those times I've read your blog, been inspired, but neglected to leave a comment. I do it a lot; too much. Same goes for all those times you've left a comment or asked a question and I've not responded. I read everything, I make a mental note to write something insightful or witty, then I put it off, then it seems like it's too late. For whatever reason, correspondence has always required that I summon up my internal resources, pull myself together, and get motivated. I suppose at bottom is an irrational fear of rejection (or at least a fear of sounding inane), but I'll save that for the therapist, and instead beg for your understanding

Today, I'm going to try, at least in some measure, to make amends. So enough with the confessional navel gazing and on to my nominees for the 2011 Edublog Awards, or "Eddies."

Best Teacher Blog:  Let The Children Play
Jenny's remarkable blog was one of the first I encountered upon starting my own 2+ years ago. She was on one of those tears she goes on, in which she was discovering inspiring outdoor play spaces and sharing them with her readers. This experience was one of the most influential things that has happened to me as a preschool teacher, taking me on a journey into outdoor education that has lead our school's community to design and build two outdoor classrooms in the past couple years, not to mention developing a whole new curriculum to go along with them. So beautiful and polished was her work, that I simply assumed she'd been blogging forever and tentatively began leaving comments. Little did I know that she was just starting out as well. Jenny, more than any other single educator, has helped me really understand what it is we progressive, play-based teachers are doing on a day-to-day basis. Thank you, Jenny, you are one of my heros!

Best New Blog: zella said purple
Sometimes Jeanne just blows me away with her insights into the inner life of the children in her charge, and through them children in general. Sometimes it's her thoughtfulness about our profession. Sometimes it's her wit and creativity that takes what might look like a simple art project, for instance, into the realm of great wisdom. And always, it's her incredible photos, which she uses so purposefully to illustrate and illuminate. Not only that, but she is such an incredible, supportive presence on the internet in general, both through her blog and her use of other social networking media.

Being a preschool teacher, I'm around a lot of newborns, not as their teacher, but hopefully their future teacher, as they come to school to drop off their older siblings. My standing joke had always been to look under their little blankies and say, "Come back to me when you can walk and talk, then we can be friends." I've not said it since discovering parent educator Janet Lansbury's self-named blog. Inspired by the work of Magda Gerber (for whom she is an important evangelist) Janet has changed my entire way of thinking about babies and very young children, giving me insight into the brilliance and competency of our youngest humans. It's almost impossible to pick out one post to nominate in this category, nearly every one of them pierces into some core truth about young children and our relationships with them, but the one that had the most impact on me was The Secrets of Infant Learning. The video she shares of a baby scientist at work, and her careful observations, belies so many of my long held assumptions about infants that it's like she's opened a door to a whole new world. A close runner up for me is the post Don't Cramp Your Toddlers Style -- The Power of Trust in which a little girl inspires by just lying on a beach. Holy cow!

Sherry and Donna won in this category last year, so that's where I'm nominating them again (because, you know, two is a group). But frankly, they could and should clean up in any one of the Edublog categories. I am 100 percent certain that I would not be blogging today without my Australian colleagues' support. They are such incredible supporters that they even took care of my parents for an afternoon when they visited Melbourne. When the well feels dry, this is the first place I turn for inspiration and I doubt that anyone has more fun playing with young children than these two. You probably already read their blog because they are among the most popular early childhood bloggers out there, but if not, it's time to get on the stick. They're popular for a reason!

Best Twitter Hashtag: #teachpreschool
Deborah Stewart is the queen of early childhood social media. Ah heck, she's simply the queen of all media! No one, no one, no one has done more for bringing the early childhood education community together online like Deborah has, through her blog Teach Preschool, her music CD Simple Songs for Preschool, her regular television appearances, her prolific tweeting, and her wildly successful Facebook page (with over 25,000 followers). Like with Sherry and Donna, I could have nominated her in any category, but since this hashtag is her latest foray (of which I'm aware), and it has become my go-to spot on Twitter during these past few months, I hope she'll understand that I had to choose just one.

Best Individual Tweeter: R. Scott Wiley
There is no one more thoughtful and generous in our community that Scott. We first met each other through his blog Brick by Brick and his capacity for looking deeply into the things that most of us take for mundane and unearthing insights into young children is astonishing. I often drop by there expecting to learn about a project, but come away feeling inspired about life. In the past year he has become an indispensable Tweeter, sharing mountains of valuable links and information, piling up the followers, and spreading the preschool love right across the internet. I think of him as my Nashville brother.

Best Individual Blog: Marla McLean, atelierista
Yes, I wish she posted more often, but then I wouldn't have the sense of anticipation I feel each time I see in my reader that Marla has written something new. I'll confess, I don't always know what to make of her posts at first: they are sometimes so poetic that they seem to come to me from another world. I've told her before that I find myself returning to each of her posts 2, 3, or 4 times. I love the way this artist/teacher's mind works, the way she weaves her many life experiences together in these artworks that seem almost like a kind of magical spell has been cast in which walls are knocked down and new connections made. I'm inspired both by her commitment to the Reggio Emilia approach, of course, but even more so by the way she approaches each post as a work of art in which she's put careful thought into every detail. 

There are so many other blogs deserving of recognition that I hesitate to even post this because of those left out, three of which are I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!Child Central StationLearning for Life. The only reason I'm not nominating them, is that they've already nominated this blog and apparently if I turned around and nominated them, we would cancel one another out, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't nominate them. And keep in mind, if I've nominated you, don't nominate me! 

So, again I apologize for being a jerk. I hope I've introduced you to at least a few new blogs. And please know, I do love you despite my neuroses.

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Juliet Robertson said...

A very elegantly composed nomination list! Well worth reading! And yes, I'm not very good at responding to others blogs either - but in my heart I'd answer every one!

berlee said...

i sort of feel like publicly blogging and being generous in sharing your thoughts with those who find them relevant and interesting does not equal obligation to engaging in a two-way individual relationship with anyone on the internet who expresses interest. anyone who feels entitled otherwise kind of feels like they are missing the point and not taking into account the actual math of how much time is in a day and how much quality information and interaction is reasonable during that time before it's simply gratuitous overload that dilutes the whole purpose. (ie: personally, i greatly appreciate what you share, i get a LOT out of it, more than you can imagine, and am astonished and a little saddened that something has made you feel the need to apologize in this way and call yourself a jerk for not babysitting everyone in the universe's feelings, namely those that in the same breath recognize that you write "all the time" but still feel the need to point out that it's somehow not enough, and need for validation) how's that for a lot of run-ons?? (and no that does not require a response) and CONGRATULATIONS!

Teacher Tom said...

Thanks berlee . . . But just to be clear, no one has made me feel guilty other than myself, but your comment makes me feel better anyway. Thanks!

Juliet . . . Exactly!

Play for Life said...

Oh wow Tom what an awesome way to wake up in the morning! Unlike you I ALWAYS have plenty to say in response to peoples questions and comments however right here, right now ... I'm kind of stuck for words!!!

Thanks Tom ... You're the best!
Donna :) :)

rosesmama said...

Thanks for the nod to Janet Lansbury. When I was an infant teacher, I don't know how many times people stopped by to remark on how I treated the babies 'just like people'. Um, right . . .

Jeanne Zuech said...

Tom - I sit here on a quiet Sunday morning, coffee in hand, and am glowingly stunned by your generous words and nomination for Zella Said Purple (and me). You have inspired me - as well as fired me up - with your Here It Is, This Is What I Have To Say approach to sharing about children, education and teachers. You know you rock and I will continue to let anyone else left in the blogosphere know that as well :)
Oh, and of course, the other fabulous 'nominees' are my guiding lights, as well, as I stumble through my own journey as a blogger!

berlee said...

maybe your inner-guilt-tripper (i presumed external because of the "you write all the time why can't you drop me a line" bit) could consider that gratitude stands on it's own two feet just awesomely and does not need accompaniment of a self deprecating apology when you *are* also doing your part in outpouring a lot of goodness into the world. ;) (you and Laura Markham at, who incidentally is how i found you, play a big role in keeping this Anxious Mom With Very Strong Willed preschool girl somewhat approximating sanity. ish.) and now i will try to find time to go explore some of these recommendations!!

Shellee said...

Hi Tom,

Regarding your first three paragraphers.....ME TOO! Totally get you there. I fight with myself all the time too. And to take the time to call people??? Forget it. It gets me in trouble all the time.

Regarding the nominations...thanks for the introductions!

Teacher Tom said...

Haha, berlee . . . That line about not writing: it was my mom's voice I was listening to in my head! =)

Aunt Annie said...

I'm with Shellee- I totally get you too. We beat ourselves up for places where we feel we fall short, though we've probably put ridiculous expectations on ourselves. I'm a good written communicator, but people have died waiting for me to call back. :D

Great recommendations here, as ever! Totally with you on Janet Lansbury and IIFPBL- extremely influential, important voices.

Deborah said...

Hey Tom - I love the nomination for my #teachpreschool. I started that eons ago and just kept it rolling. Whoever would have thought it would become an Edublog contender!

I miss you online at times - I think I am spoiled by the good old days when we were all together and conversations were simply spontaneous. I guess it was simpler back then since there were just a few of us. But with all good things - growth is inevitable and we each can only do what we can do - I understand that and choose to receive this message as a way of letting us know that you care and realize that we miss you. Thank you for that.

janetlansbury said...

Tom, you are far from jerk. As I've said, I *seriously* don't know how you have time to do all you are doing... generously sharing your pearls of wisdom and inspiration just about every day! It's crazy but wonderful that you do that. Your posts are always a corroboration of all I believe about young children, freshly, uniquely and beautifully stated and illustrated.

I never feel even close to caught-up with everything either...or feel that I have the chance to comment enough or express my gratitude enough! I'm prone to blogger guilt, worried about those I appreciate who might not know it. So, we're clones in that respect, too.

Gosh, Tom, thanks so much for nominating me! Such an illustrious group! I've felt enlightened, supported and encouraged by all those you've listed: Deborah, Jeanne, Sherry and Donna, Scott, Jenny...your carmeraderie is a joy and a blessing. Aunt Annie, you belong in this group, too. I'm SO excited about the work we are all doing...together (at least it feels that way to me). Love and thanks to you, Tom, and to everyone!

@rosesmama, I adore your comment! Thank you!

Kristin said...

Tom - a great list and well said. Thanks for being an inspiration. You were one of the first blogs I stumbled upon when I started blogging a few months ago and I have enjoyed reading reading your comments ever since.

jenny @ let the children play said...

Tom, you made me get all teary! So touched by your lovely words. In fact, I may just have to print them out and stick them on my fridge to remind me that I'm okay when I'm having a crap of a day. I remember when you first commented on my blog - I think you were the second one I ever got! And don't stress - I'm just as crap as you at commenting on other blogs. I just don't have the time, but rest assured - the feeling of love is mutual :)

Scott said...

Thank you, Tom, for your nomination and kind comments. You have been so inspirational to me and I feel fortunate if I could give some back to you.

I may not always comment but I will spread the links!

rachelle | tinkerlab said...

Lovely list, Tom. I know you can't nominate yourself, but you'd be on my list for sure! Thank you for all your hard work, and for continuing to inspire parents and teachers around the world.

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

Thank you Tom. It means so much. Not only am I nominated by you, who I admire and respect, but the company of all the other blogs you nominated are just fantastic. I linked you at the bottom of my latest post, and told my readers while they are at it, to brew a cup of coffee and read all your posts. hee hee (Your blogging output just bewilders me-in awe!)

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Maggie said...

Thanks so much for posting your nominations! I've really enjoyed checking out the blogs and new resources and can't wait to follow their latest updates. This type of sharing is what makes technology so powerful for educators.