Thursday, October 17, 2019

My New Adventure

I have been the preschool teacher at Woodland Park Cooperative School for a long time. Nearly two decades ago I welcomed my first class of 3-5 year olds. A couple years later, I added a class of 2 year olds. Then we created our summer program, followed by a 4-5's program, which evolved into our current 4's program with the advent of our kindergarten. During that time, we've moved to larger facility, created two state-of-the-art playgrounds, built a magnificent greenhouse, educated thousands of parents, and created dozens of teachers who are still working in classrooms today. I'm proud of what I've done to grow and nurture the Woodland Park community, working to make it a place where everyone values children and understands the importance of their play. And I'm beyond grateful for everything this community has done to grow and nurture me.

In many ways, I grew up at Woodland Park and the families who entrusted me with their children have been my family. They've made it possible for me to become the "Teacher Tom" the rest of world knows, the blogger, author, and public speaker. Looking upon it from the perspective of today, it's a story that reads in my mind like a kind of fairytale, one that has had it's ups and downs, never dull, a daily adventure, but most importantly, always buoyed by love. I have been the luckiest man alive.

But as anyone who reads fairytales knows, the protagonist must inevitably leave home. I'm writing today to tell you about my new adventure as Teacher Tom. I am leaving my beloved Woodland Park at the end of the month to help found a new venture called Weekdays. Our vision is to help teachers, daycare providers, and parents to be their own bosses by starting their own play-based neighborhood preschools and daycares. I'm inspired by the idea of helping thousands of educators to take their financial futures into their own hands almost as much as the idea of creating thousands high-quality preschools. We're only in Washington state right now, but we intend to get to other states as quickly as possible. If you're interested, even if you're in another state, go ahead and create an account so that we can keep you apprised of what's happening.

Over half of the the US is currently in what are being called "childcare deserts," places where there are three or more children for every one preschool or daycare spot. This presents incredible challenges for families who are forced to cobble together care and education for their young children, often being forced to drive hours every day, often settling for sub-par options, often having to turn to an unreliable network of friends and family to fill in the gaps, all of which creates tensions and even toxic stress for families. At the same time, those who care for young children are barely earning enough to make ends meet. Here in Washington state the average annual income is around $30,000. Our idea is that there should be a high-quality preschool not just in every neighborhood, but ultimately on every block. Our idea is that children should grow up playing in their own neighborhoods. And our idea is that preschool educators should make a real living wage. Our goal is to do nothing less than transform early childhood education in America.

Our role is to support edu-entrepreneurs through the most daunting business challenges, such as navigating licensing, regulations and other paperwork, providing insurance, handling billing, helping with marketing and enrollment, and generally being their business partners so that they can focus on the most important part: caring for and educating young children. In my role as head of education, I will spend my days working with our teachers and providers to help them to create the kinds of programs that children deserve.

As for this blog, I will continue to write here every day, I will continue to write books, and I will continue to travel the country speaking out on behalf of children and their families just as I always have. It's only my "day job" that will change.

I'm excited about my new adventure even as I'm melancholy about leaving Woodland Park, although I expect to continue to be a frequent visitor and will always be a staunch supporter. This morning I am Max, the boy in the wolf costume who has discovered that the walls of his room have become the world all around. I'm looking forward to the wild rumpus ahead!

I've 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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