Tom Moore Our Teacher
In the late eighties, I was a graduate student of Early Childhood Education at SUNY Geneseo, but before I could finish, I was teaching kindergarten at Cobblestone School in the city of Rochester. Cobblestone encouraged a child centered approach. John Dewey’s ideas about child development provided a foundation for much of the educational practice there, and I had the luxury of working with seasoned teachers. During this time I also became very interested in Rudolf Steiner, who stressed the importance of play, wonder, and nurturing the inner development of the younger child through fairytale and verse. But my practice grew more solid when I myself became a father. What a humbling education parenting provides. As a dad, my daughters taught me about appropriate practice in a way no textbook or college lecture ever could. Parenting and teaching continue to open my eyes, my mind and my heart.
Long before working at Cobblestone, I had been an art teacher for the Rochester City School District. I realized early that teaching art was not enough for me. Consequently I was inspired to explore the idea of becoming a classroom teacher. But before going back to school I spent a period of time working on dairy farms, in restaurants, and traveling. These experiences garnered me an appreciation for varieties and rhythms of seasonal work and play, which I would later incorporate in the classroom as play with a purpose.
It has always been a desire of mine that every child feel important and understand that their feelings matter. Children who come together respecting and caring for one another will often grow to function as healthy adults with an appreciation for community. In our classroom we stop everything when friends are sad, hurt or feeling left out, and we talk about how it is important that everyone feel included and safe, with their bodies as well as their hearts. Children are encouraged to notice each other and to let each other know when something isn’t right or if someone is hurting. If these values are all a child takes away from their experience of preschool, I believe that it was time well spent.
Being the teacher for Ellwanger-Barry Nursery School has been such a joy for me. What could be more magical than watching children grow. The parents who make up the community, and the board are amazingly dedicated and give so much of themselves to make this school work. Everybody volunteers, and I often get to work with all of them, occasionally even grandparents. Being a member of the EBNS community has been a high point in my life.
Audrey Sample MWF Assistant
I've been a part of EBNS since 2011 (though actually, my older brother Nathaniel is an EBNS class of 2000 alum, so I have fond but distant memories of running into the castle room to greet him at pick-up time). I began as a classroom helper, and then became a teaching assistant, and couldn't be more thrilled to have Tom as my mentor. He has influenced my life in uncountable ways.
I've been secularly homeschooled all my life, and live in the city near EBNS. I attended Lilac Children's Garden (a Waldorf education inspired homeschool program where Tom also teaches) for eight years and am currently entering my senior year of "high school". I've always been drawn to working with children.
I periodically help out with projects at Lilac Children's Garden, and spent three years as the teaching assistant for children's dance classes with Elizabeth Clark. I've studied Kingian Nonviolence and Nonviolent Communication at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, and have volunteered in their Peace in the Garden program for young children. I am the Youth Liaison at Feminists for Nonviolent Choices. I'd like to one day be either a journalist, a political commentator, community organizer or a guidance counselor in the RCSD.
My mom has a bumper sticker that says "Listen to children", and that's basically my teaching philosophy. Listen to children. Love them. Love being present with them. Get excited when they get excited. Always pick up the fake telephone when they hand it to you.
As a child I was quite sensitive; my tears would easily flow. My trust was slow to build and could instantly be shattered. I sometimes had adults instruct me to stop crying, stop being dramatic and just get over it. Because I know first hand that those things usually make children shut down in shame, I feel a connection when I see kids feeling challenging emotions.
I believe that emotions are not inherently problematic, but the strategies adults use to express them often are. I know what it's like to feel like adults don't understand you, so I try my hardest to understand where kids are coming from instead of just criticizing them for feeling something that may be driving disruptive behavior. It's satisfying to work somewhere that believes in the unique and individual unfolding of children, a place that believes children are worthy of trust, respect, and gentleness in their interactions with those entrusted with their care.
The EBNS community has a very special place in my heart. It is a wonderful support network, and I'm so grateful for all of the fun and hardworking families who make this school possible. I sometimes feel like I should be paying you all for letting me work here!