Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Early Childhood Professional & Motivational Speaker Richard Cohen by Mike Prochaska
Richard Cohen, from Montpelier, Vt., got into Early Childhood Education to earn extra money. “I was working at a local children’s gym. My time there was so joyous that I decided to go back to school to become a full-time early childhood professional,” he says. “I received my MA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College and spent many years as an infant, toddler, preschool and kindergarten teacher.”
Richard has traveled the world as a consultant, coach and motivational speaker/instructor, facilitating fun, innovative, thought-provoking, interactive adult learning experiences for communities of early childhood teachers, administrators, caregivers and parents. “I deliver keynote addresses at early childhood conferences around the world, offer both in-person and online training courses, perform community singalongs and have created and sell ECE-related merchandise (shirts, mugs, magnets, etc.).” Richard is also the director of Turtle Island Children's Center, a nature-based emergent curriculum school serving infants through preschools in Montpelier. Read on to learn even more about Richard...
Q. What do you see as the advantages of having a male teacher?
"Young children spend most of their waking hours around women, so I have always been keenly aware of the responsibility of being the rare male role model in their lives. By being kind, sensitive, respectful and generous of spirit, I hope I demonstrate for both boys and girls what’s possible in being or relating to a man."
Q. What’s a favorite memory working with kids?
"I have always loved reading with young children, as well as singing and dancing with them. Anything messy, especially mud, is always a treasured memory."
Q. Why is play important for children?
"We could spend years of doctoral work answering this question! Simply, active, hands-on, sensory-oriented play is the medium through which young children best learn about the world around them. By playing in meaningful ways, young children’s affect is activated, maximizing their cognitive benefits. There are opportunities for all areas of their development (motor, social, emotional, cognitive) when young children are fully engaged in their play."
Q. Anything else you want to tell us about working with young children?
"For me, it is like a calling and a sacred responsibility, to care for other people’s children in their most formative years. I take it very, very seriously and oftentimes, that seriousness shows up as very intentional playful silliness. Other times, I purposely step away or follow their lead, trusting their innate ability to learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it."
Q. Anything inspiring to tell anyone thinking of going into this field?
"Take the leap of faith that you are making a profound difference in the world by going into this field. The fruits of your labors may not reveal themselves until long after you are forgotten, but trust that you have made a significant contribution to a better world."
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