Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Staff Spotlight: Bret

The role of a Reggio teacher has many layers, but is first and foremost that of a learner alongside the children. The Reggio teacher is a observer, a documenter, a self reflector, and a anchor in their classroom community. Bret is a model of these high ideals, and is forever blown away by the things the children are teaching him. It is a joy to watch him teach and witness those gears that never seem to stop turning.... coming up with a new way to teach bicycle riding, or  following the children's lead in a study of sign language.  Bret first joined The Little School as a father at our Duke campus, and quickly joined our staff full-time. Raised by professors, and a anthropologist to the core, Bret is ceaselessly digging in deeper and finding new twists and turns in child development. Both goofy and dry, he is an amazingly good sport, cast into this surreal work environment as one of only two male teachers! He pushes us to think deeply about the capabilities of children, and makes us laugh all the way. We are supremely lucky to have him as part of The Little School. 

How did you find your way to TLS?
Old 86.

What do you value most or hold most dear at TLS?
The effort that the school aims to establish the highest possible standards as opposed to meeting the lowest allowable standards.  My wife and I shuffled my daughter through four other pre-schools before finding The Little School.  The level of excellence that the school strives for was a perfect match for my family, my daughter, and now my professional goals.

What is your educational approach? How do you find children learn best?
Children learn about the natural world through exploration and experimentation, they learn about the social world by observing and interacting with those around them, and these are not mutually exclusive.

What was the most interesting trip you have taken?
In 2005 I went on a 22 day tip to Vietnam and Cambodia with my wife.  We traveled from Hanoi in the north of the country to Saigon in the south, then on to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  To spend so much time on such an extensive tour was awesome.  I can't wait to take my next adventure of this magnitude.

What movie or work of fiction has had the biggest impact on you? Why?
I'll answer he question that I wish you asked.  What two books of non-fiction had the biggest impact on you?

This is probably a tie between Mixed Blessings: Intensive Care for Newborns
by Jeanne Guillemin & Lynda Lytle Holmstrom and Heaven is a Playground by Rick Tellander.

Mixed Blessings by Guillemin and Holmstrom (Holmstrom happens to be my mother)is an ethnographic study of the world surrounding a newborn intensive care unit. The book was my first introduction to ethnographic research and qualitative analysis.  Having immediate access to the researchers and authors reading the book was an illuminating introduction to the world of sociological research.

Heaven is a Playground, is by Chicago sportswriter, Rick Tellander. It is an up close examination of the on and off court culture of street basketball in Brooklyn, NY.  The book offers a fascinating look at the social intersection of sports, society, struggle that can allow players to move from power dunks on the street courts to college ball and beyond.  The books social backdrop offered me a lot of insight into the street life that consumed many of my friends and acquaintances growing up.

Mixed Blessings sparked my interest, and Heaven is a Playground sealed the deal in my ever evolving examination and understanding  of culture and society.

What is something about you that most people may not know?
I have attended 6 different colleges finally graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UNC Chapel Hill with a BA in Anthropology in 2009.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Ignore anyone who tries to tell you "How it really is."

What was your strangest job?
I worked as a professional truck driver and mover in Massachusetts for over 5 years and have completed more than 1000 residential moves.  During this time I have moved people from various settings between the projects of Charlestown, Boston to the Old Money row houses in Beacon Hill, Boston and everywhere in between.  It was a facinating anthropological adventure into the culture of modern America.  People are a trip.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
I'll let you guess.

If you were an animal, what would you be? Why?
I AM an animal - Homo sapien sapien.

What is your happiest childhood memory/what makes it so special?
Tromping through the woods in the deep snow by myself in New Hampshire. I was allowed to experience it as a child because my parents felt safe enough to let we wander on my own.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
Put school off longer.

What's the best bargain you've ever found at a garage sale or thrift store?
My best find ever was actually at the Orange county landfill.  Someone dropped of a rowing machine which I took home.  I changed the batteries, it worked, and I exercise in the morning on it as often as possible.

What is your favorite children’s book?
Novel - "Danny the Champion of the World" by Roald Dahl. Picture Book- "The Story of Ferdinand" by Leaf & Lawson.

What's the most memorable class you've ever taken?
The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft with Phillip Stein at Los Angeles Pierce College in CA.

What words do you live by?
I am partial to the North Carolina motto- Esse Quam Videri - "To be, rather than to seem."