Richard Cohen is an inspiring Early Childhood Teacher who has been teaching for over 25 years and speaks all around the world to other educators.
Check out the interview below.
Nicky: I would love to know why you first chose to be an Early Childhood Educator.
Richard: As a teenager I was always a babysitter and camp counselor. It was a natural progression for me to become an early childhood educator. Though I first went to New York University film school and moved out to Hollywood to pursue a directing career, I soon realized that the I was not cut out for the entertainment industry and returned to my first love – taking care of young children. This was the best decision I’ve ever made!
Nicky: When you first started teaching who did you turn to for support?
Richard: I was fortunate to be teaching at the same time I was taking ECE college classes. This allowed me to seek advice from professors and use my real-life classroom challenges in my coursework.
Nicky: Where did you look for resources? Colleagues? Conferences? Online? Books?
Richard: In the States, every city has a Child Care Resource and Referral Agency. These exist to assist parents in finding child care but also to serve teachers and caregivers. They had libraries of books, materials, prop boxes, videos and so much more that I could borrow for free. They were also always eager to help me problem-solve and come up with creative solutions to whatever challenges I was facing in the classroom or with a particular child. I am very grateful to them and am also grateful to myself for my humility; my willingness to ask others for assistance.
Nicky: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced when first starting?
Richard: Being a male in the field was (and probably still is, for many men) a tremendous challenge. In particular, as an openly gay male, I also felt it was important to educate others about the myths of pedophilia – that homosexuality and child molestation have no factual connection. As a young man in the late eighties, “coming out” to families was also stressful and scary but, ultimately, was very rewarding and allowed me to build the close, trusting relationships that are so vital to successful teacher-parent partnerships that best serve the needs of each child.
Nicky: What was one key technique you used to keep accurate records of your students to ensure you provided suitable experiences for them?
Richard: In my early days as a teacher, I kept a daily journal about the children, the activities, the families, etc. that I would re-read later to look for, for example, patterns about a particular child who was experiencing a challenge. Nowadays, I would set up a recording system using an iPhone or iPad app, that would allow me to enter observational data “on-the-fly” and sort it in different ways, as needed.
Nicky: How did you find balance between work and home life?
Richard: I’ve never been very good at finding that balance J. I have always been so passionate about my work that sometimes my home life suffers. I have gotten better at it over the years, as I have become more self-aware of my tendencies to immerse myself in my work but it remains a challenge.
Nicky: Do you believe the way you take care of your health impacts the way you teach?
Richard: Absolutely. I notice that I am not as good a teacher if I did not get enough sleep or if I eat too much unhealthy food. It becomes harder to find energy, to focus, to be creative, to be a keen observer and to have quick reaction times when I have neglected my body’s needs beforehand.
Nicky: What do you believe we could do as teachers to improve the health of the children we teach?
Richard: We need to model for them that we prioritize our own health. We need to provide nutritious foods. We need to let them play, play, play – to find the joy in being active and interactive. In order to make lasting changes in the lives of young children, we need to educate and nurture the parents as well.
I hope you were able to get a lot out of this interview and inspired to continue with your journey to health to educate our children about health.
To learn more about Richard’s speaking engagements please visit www.richardcohen.com. To receive free daily ECE humor and inspiration from Richard “like” Zen and the Art of Early Childhood Education on Facebook at www.facebook.com/artofearlychildhood
Check out Richards video ‘Top 10 Signs You’re an Early Childhood Educator’