I just finished “Teacher Tom’s First Book” and needed to rave about it! Tom Hobson is a well-known blogger who shares his reflections on teaching preschool at a cooperative preschool here in Seattle. This book is a compilation of his blog posts and happens to overlap beautifully with our Positive Discipline philosophy.
As a parent or caregiver, you might not be immediately drawn to a book written by a teacher and about teaching, but it is absolutely relevant and engaging for anyone who has children in their lives. My copy is highlighted, tabbed, and has post-it notes falling out of it from all the notes I was jotting down & sections I want to remember!
“Teacher Tom’s First Book” is presented in five sections full of short vignettes and reflections. It’s so easy to jump in and out of this book, and it left me feeling inspired to dig deeper into my empathy, patience, and respect to bring my best-self to the children in my life every time I picked it up.
Hobson starts the book with a chapter on the importance of play. He explains why his school is concerned with play over academics and that for over 20 years, his students have been “heading off to kindergarten…right where kindergarten teachers should expect them to be.” Tom shares stories of play that we wouldn’t see at most preschools, like young children building their own ladder & treehouse. Tom teaches us why we have to let kiddos embrace “just right” risky play. He advocates that “all play is educational” and the benefits of rough & tumble play, which is something I really struggle with embracing. Teacher Tom writes about how easy it is to fall into “catastrophic thinking” about anything & everything being dangerous for a child, and how we must give them risk and let them use real things and have real experiences to truly learn how to keep themselves safe.
The next chapter is about community. Teacher Tom calls his school a deeply democratic community and explains how the children at his preschool make their own rules. We know children have more buy-in when they’re involved in creating their rules and routines. Teacher Tom talks about working with children who have a “stronger social drive” than you do, which is something I can struggle with when accompanying outgoing kiddos to the playground. Tom shares advice for when kiddos want to play rough (his example being a pinecone fight) and how adults “muck this up by simply banning the game altogether, giving no one a chance to learn anything.” I’ve certainly been guilty of that. He also shares why he wants to and how he encourages children to think for themselves and question authority. I know that blind obedience is not one of those life skills we’re working toward! Teacher Tom also touches on consent in play, how to handle “boys versus girls,” and what class meetings look like in his room.
The middle section of “Teacher Tom’s First Book” is about conflicts. Teacher Tom kicks off with a great metaphor about two-year-olds being “mad scientists rushing around the laboratory of life pushing buttons to see what happens.” Exactly! He talks about hitting & goes step-by-step through how he walks through conflict between kiddos, including why he doesn’t force apologies. Teacher Tom reminds us that conflict is how we learn life skills and why his school doesn’t force sharing.
The next chapter is a great reminder about how FUN it is to be with children! Teacher Tom reminds us of how much kiddos can surprise us when we can keep our mouths shut and let them solve their problems. He also talks about the importance of pretend play and shares why his school believes in a growth mindset and not using “empty praise,” a habit I’m still working on breaking.
The last section of Teacher Tom’s book is called “The Technology of How to Treat Human Beings.” Hobson talks about teaching life skills and encourages us to “teach him to do as much for himself as his age and abilities will allow,” which we know boosts self-esteem. Teacher Tom gives clear examples of “speaking informatively” to children in a way that gives them a chance to process and make decisions rather than just telling kids what to do. Tom shares a quote from the parent of a child he taught that sure rang true to me: “If you don’t give children attention, they’ll take it, and you won’t like how they do it.”
I’ve barely scratched the surface on all of the wisdom Teacher Tom shares in this book. I know book reviews typically offer some criticism, but all I can come up with is that I’m out $23.95 because I had to buy “Teacher Tom’s Second Book” as soon as I finished this one.
Have you read Teacher Tom’s books or blogs? Share your thoughts below.