Tears were slowly seeping out of my eyes and down my cheeks as I watched the white horses and guardsman on the tiny screen. I tried to cover my emotions from the other passengers, but everything around me kind of faded away like I had tunnel vision. I couldn’t contain my joy and amazement. As a child, I never thought I would go to London. Yet, here I was, sitting on plane that was descending into Heathrow Airport. I was on the precipice of realizing a life-long dream; and I was arriving in London with a cause.
Back in September of 2012, myself and four other American educators were selected to participate in a global summit and engage in international discussions about transformational educational practices. Among the dozens of participants and the nations they represented, I was the only person representing early childhood education.
If I impressed delegates with my rendition of “Wheels on the Bus”, then I would hit them with my Show and Tell activity and my Panda puppet.
To say I felt a little out of my league would be an understatement. How was I going with stand on the same platform as elementary and high school teachers, administrators, principals, advocates, and other international professionals while I spent portions of my day playing tag, singing songs, and helping children fall asleep for nap time.
However, despite my feelings of inadequacy, I was more driven that what I do everyday is important. I was given an opportunity to display my conviction and commitment on a world stage. I was not going to disappoint or shy away from the opportunity to scream through a bull horn the importance of early childhood education.
Fortunately, I was completely wrong about my assumptions. Throughout my week long conference in London, early childhood was welcomed and applauded by my peers and fellow delegates. I was even asked to give an impromptu speech during one of the sessions. I visited schools in London – schools that were changing children’s lives.
When the meetings and the breakout sessions ended for the day, I explored the London scenery. Although the trip was work related, I definitely was not going to miss out on a once in a lifetime experience. I went to landmarks, museums, and ate local food. I rode in taxi cabs and double decker busses. And my camera went everywhere as I explored.
When the conference was done, I boarded a plane and braced for the long flight back home. I held onto my London journal, a journal that was given to all participants at the beginning of the conference. It contained all of my notes and thoughts from the entire week. I wrote down reflections, thoughts, ideas and plans that I wanted to accomplish over the coming years.
Moral of the Story: When you’re moved to move, then move with reckless abandonment.
I boarded the plane on an intrinsic high and motivated. However, in order to make a difference – the difference I felt that I could make – I would need to start undertaking my own efforts; efforts that would be unique to me and that I could sustain.
Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education
If you believe you’re good, prove it. I know too many people that say they can do this and do that, but they choose not to – respect me for what I can possibly do is the message I hear. That’s ridiculous. Feeling you can do something is not the same as saying you actually did it. Although I had only spent three years in early childhood, I felt that I was good. However, I also felt obligated to demonstrate – through action and commitment – that I was an early childhood professional.
Just before going to London, I had just started graduate school. In December of 2014, just this past year, I completed the program and earned my Masters in Early Childhood Education. And, once again, I was amazed. If I thought that London would never happen in my life, then you better believe that earning a Masters degree – in anything – felt equally distant and unattainable.
In January of 2012, I finally took the plunge into blogging and I’ve been continuing this blog – the very one you’re reading right now – for two and half years. The audience has steadily grown. The content has been showcased in graduate programs, educational websites, and even professional development meetings. When I’ve gone to conferences, people approach me asking “Are you ‘The Guy in Preschool‘ guy?” I’m always taken aback when people recognize me, but I attribute my recognition to the importance of the cause I’m fighting for.
Sheep into Lions
I believe that it’s easier to take someone with character and drive and teach them early childhood than to take someone with early childhood education and grow their character and drive. I’ve seen really smart people spend very little time in the field, then leave for other ventures. Yet, there are many committed people in early childhood, they just lack the necessary education and professional development to truly make the difference they seek. I’d rather help the later: help people realize their passion and commitment by giving them knowledge and stronger skills.
So here comes the third realized dream I thought I’d never attain – college professor. I enjoyed working with the kiddos, but I love teaching adults. I tell them about where I came from and how I realized my dreams. From watching PBS and learning about far away places to sitting at a pub and eating fish and chips – you really can achieve and experience the winners of the world when given the opportunity and skills.
To really hit home with my message, I share about how the surrounding impoverished neighborhood around our campus is filled with small children with big dreams – big dreams that they feel are unattainable and out of reach. I tell my students that there are children just outside the building that are just like me, waiting for someone or something to give them a shot at their dreams. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s passion or a chip on my shoulder, but my conviction and passion is intertwined into my curriculum. I want my students to develop that intrinsic high and cultivate deep motivation.
So, London, it’s been 3 years. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Perhaps with my wife and son for a major vacation. Just know that you are the place that refueled my passion, commitment, and leadership – and that fuel has sustained growth and actions still visible today and for the foreseeable future.