Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fruit Of The Tree

I'm a preschool teacher today because I enrolled our daughter in the Latona Cooperative Preschool back in 1998. One of my central responsibilities as a parent was to attend class at least once a week to work with the teacher as an assistant. I did this for three years, working with Chris David, a master teacher, and when my child was ready to move on to kindergarten, she asked me if I had any particular plans for what I was going to do with my time, I realized I didn't. She suggested I become a teacher and the rest is history.

At a recent event here in Australia as part of a Q&A panel, I was asked if I had any advice for a new teacher. As I waited for my turn to respond, I reflected on my own early years and could only think of teacher Chris. She had seemed like a magician to me. As a parent, I wanted to be like her, and had spent three years making an informal study of how she interacted with children. I realize now that most of what I do as a teacher has grown from the seeds she planted. When I got my own classroom at Woodland Park, teaching the 3-5's class, I tried to be so much like her that people who knew both of us would remark on it. As time has passed, I've become my own man, but the core of how I work with children and manage my classroom, even the songs we sing, is pure Chris David.

Today, I'm proud that there are now at least a dozen teachers out there in the world who got their own starts working with me at Woodland Park, many of whom have told me that they still ask themselves, "What would Teacher Tom do?" the way I used to ask myself, "What would teacher Chris do?"

When it came time for me to respond to the question that had been posed to our panel, I answered, "Find mentors." Of course, there is a lot to learn about teaching and children and theory from college classrooms, but nothing can replace the hands-on learning that happens when you have the opportunity to study a master teacher at work day after day. I think of those three years at the Latona Cooperative Preschool as my apprenticeship.

Lately, I've been joking that when I finally die, I want my ashes to be used to fertilize an apple tree. I love the idea of future children climbing on those branches and eating that fruit. And that's the way it should be for teachers: I am the fruit of teacher Chris David's tree and now I'm bearing fruit of my own. It's how the profession should grow, one generation to the next.

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Nancy Schimmel said...

To each his/her own. I knew a woman who asked that her ashes be buried under an apricot tree in her friends' yard; she wanted to come back as apricots. I sang at her memorial under that tree.

Debbie Matthews said...

Thank you Teacher Tom..i had the pleasure of attending the conference at Dusty Hill on the weekend and listening to you speak and share your was truly inspiring ☺