Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Interview With Tom Bedard

A while ago I interviewed Scott Wiley and thought it was about time I interviewed another inspirational male early childhood professional. if all goes well I would like to see this become a regular series, but we'll just start with this one for now.

May I introduce you to Tom Bedard from the blog,
Sand and Water Tables. As we live in different continents the best way to conduct this interview was for me to email Tom a series of questions that he later replied to with his responses. Here we go.

When did you first consider entering the Early Childhood profession?

Entering college, I wanted to learn about children so I majored in Child Psychology. Coming out of college, I looked for a job in a childcare center. After being on the job and around children for a month, I knew I had found my place. Six months later, I went back to school to get a teaching certificate and a decade or so later, I got a Master's Degree in Early Ed.

Have you encountered many other males in the field, either working directly with them or via avenues such as conferences, workshops or other networking opportunities?

We are a rare breed. Whenever I go to teacher meetings, I am often the only guy. I have begun to see more men in the lower elementary grades, but not in early ed. Although I have been to two local early ed conferences in the last year and met four other male teachers and each has been in the field for over 20 years. That was a welcome surprise.

Who is/was your inspiration (if you had any) when you first began working with young children? Note: it doesn't necessarily have to be a male.

I must say that the children have always been my inspiration. They are full of eternal optimism and know how to live in the moment. As my own children grew, they were my inspiration. I had always told them to try. They did, so when I wanted to try something new, I had to follow my own advice and my children's example. Nearing the end of my career, I have many more people who inspire me. I have been involved with people who look to Reggio practice for inspiration putting tremendous amount of trust in the ability of children. And then there is the internet and blogosphere with inspiration a click away from all over the world.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Knowing that I get to be with children for whom every day is a new day to be discovered.

Was their ever a time when you doubted you choice of profession or considered leaving? If so how did you overcome those doubts?

Carlos Castaneda wrote something in one of his books that there are many paths in life, so take one with a heart and embrace it fully. Your heart has to be in it otherwise it will feel like every day you have to get up to do battle.
There were two times in my career when I had doubts. The first was five years into my career when I realized I was not making enough money to support my family. At that point, I became a director of a center. Five years later, I was able to get back in the classroom when I was hired by a school district that paid a living wage. The second time was when I worked with a colleague that questioned everything I did. Since I think I am reflective in my own practice, I began to question myself and what I was doing. I took a summer off that year even though I could not afford it. I came back in the fall stronger and have been all-in ever since.

How would you describe the general reaction from parents and colleagues to you being a man working with young children?

In 35 years, I can count only three times I felt negative vibes from parents. That is pretty good. One parent told me that she did not want me to change her daughter's diaper. Hey, I did not take that personally and was happy to let someone else do it. By the time the family left the program, though, I was told I could change her diaper. I actually feel a tremendous amount of support from the parents and colleagues.

Do you have a story or example that demonstrates how valued/respected you are by others?

In 2009, a parent in our program nominated me for Teacher of the Year in Minnesota (USA). I became the first early childhood finalist in the history of the program. (It was the first time my mother saw me in a suit as an adult.) Not only did I feel that my work was validated on a state level, but I got to spend time as an equal with some of the best elementary and secondary teachers my state has to offer.

What was your aim/goal when you began this career? What would you say is your goal professionally these days?

The past five years, I have been presenting on one aspect of my work with children, namely sand and water tables. I have done three national conferences, several regional conferences, and numerous local conferences. I am hoping to do more in a larger range of venues.


Have you mentored other professionals, whether beginning or those established who may have been struggling? If so how did you approach that/those situation/s?

I have been supervising student teachers from a couple of local colleges for a number of years. Most of the time they have assignments they have to complete. That is all well and good but I always try to first get the student teachers to relax and observe in the classroom. Once they have done some observing, we debrief. Any work in the classroom must be based on how children learn best. The only way to figure that out is to observe and dialogue about the observations.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I love to cook and to travel. In the 1970's I lived in Hungary. I met my wife when I visited a Hungarian preschool. I stayed and we married. Since I was an American in a communist country, I could not get a job. My family job became helping grandma. We went to the market every day and then went home to cook. There were no recipes, just a little bit a this and a some of that. I still use her methods when I cook. And I am always looking for a reason to travel. I have been on every continent except Australia (and Antarctica). I can still dream.


  1. Great to meet new people and new blogs too. I did not know Tom's blog. Thanks Greg I love your interviews.

    1. It is great, isn't it Lesley? Of course I knew of Tom's blog, but not most of the information she shared about himself. I think it will be interesting to discover the different journeys so many of us have made.

  2. Thank you for your interview, and insight to your thoughts and beliefs in early childhood education. I'm a male ECE teacher in San Francisco, and have been teaching for 3 1/2 years. Young in my experience - and not having any strong male teachers to model my own teaching after - reading about a male's experience and dedication to the "littlest learners" is like finding water in the desert. I look forward to the reading the next interview in this series.

    1. If you want some strong male role models you should look through the list in my male bloggers post:

      I'm looking towards the next one already Gilbert, so hopefully I'll have an interview ready to publish for April.