Thursday, June 5, 2008

Teaching is like gardening

The picture of the calla lily above is from my garden. I have always loved to garden. When I was a child I used to take care of the rose bushes around the dog pen. I loved twining the roses in between the posts, and I looked forward to seeing the fruits of my labor.

Now, as an adult with my own home, I am gardening again. I grow your usual food: tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, spinach, collards, pak choi, carrots, radishes... etc. Sometimes things go really well; other times I deal with vermin, like Kehli who loves to slurp the centers out of just ripe tomatoes that she has harvested. As a result, I have put up fences around some of the beds, and have moved several of the planters out of the main yard.

But, my pride and joy are my flowers. I am not one of those people who loves perfectly landscaped gardens. Instead I inspire to a riot of colors and plants. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not.

Last year was the first year I put in the back bed. I was so proud of myself. While I didn't put in the wall, I did pick, lay out and put in all the plants. It was a very pretty garden, and I had a number of plants that simply thrived. Still, I had others that failed to do well, and they had to be replaced this year. Even so, my first efforts were very pretty, and oh-so-neat.

Of course this year, the garden is out of control. I LOVE IT. It is a riot of plants, colors, and scents. I am very happy with it, and am planning to do a lot more work with it this summer. Of course, there is the usual work that needs to be done: weeding, trimming, hacking back, pinching, deadheading, fertilizing... it's a never ending process. But it's the daily, small stuff that makes the garden beautiful. It's also these daily chores that help the garden to thrive. Without this daily maintenance, the plants crowd each other, fighting for sun, the weeds choke emerging plants, and it just looks bad. You can never let it get away from you.

Teaching, in this respect, is much like gardening. It takes a lot of preparation beforehand to have a successful classroom. Just like you have to prep the soil, you need to set up a strong foundation for your students. You need to follow planting directions and meet the soil quality, water, and sun needs of each plant. You need to leave adequate room for the plant to spread. It's the same with students. They each have their own strengths and needs, and teachers must know what they are and meet them if their students are to thrive. And like gardens, there is a routine of things that must be done. In classrooms we need to reinforce new learning and ensure that the foundation remains strong.

Ultimately though, we need to decide what type of classroom we want. Do we need absolute order and try to bend Mother Nature to our will? Do we enjoy watching Mother Nature do what she does best? As teachers, we need to make the same decisions. We can quash children's curiosity and make them walk on the lines, sit in rows and never speak until spoken to. Or, we can encourage them to be who they are in all their messy glory. Some children will be quiet and understated like my ornamental bamboo, and others will be bigger than life like my climbing rose. Either way, we need to nurture our students. That's what teaching is all about.


Ally said...

I think it looks like a garden right out of HGTV!

Edubabbler said...

Thanks, but anyone can do this with a little trial and error and knowing how much sunlight they have in their yard. Believe me, I cannot aspire to HGTV quality. I don't have the money or the team of "hidden elves" who do most of the work. But, I can teach you how.

Lucrative Thoughts said...

I loved your metaphor! At first I thought it was kind of cheesy, but as I sat and thought about what I feel passionate about... it made perfect sense. Your passion is gardening. You put a lot of work and time into your garden. The same can be said about your teaching and pedagogy. My passion is also teaching. I was trying to think what I feel passionate about and it is films. I enjoy every aspect of movies and spend most of my time watching movies and analyzing this and that about them. I just like the whole idea that one persons vision takes so many people to make it happen so that people like me can enjoy. I hate to say it... the same can be said about teaching. We all have a vision of what an exellent pedagogy can and should be, but it takes many people working collectively to achieve this vision. You need a director, producer, actors, stunt people (I wonder who that is in a school senario?), and the list goes on. Like I said, I think passion is an important foundation that all teachers should bring to the classroom because the students will feel the same enthusiasm you have for the material.

Edubabbler said...

Teaching is about passion. But it is also about those analytical connections. A number of novice teachers with whom I have worked have held the unfortunate belief that if they simply had a number of interesting activities that their students would learn. That's like cut flowers: very pretty but short-lived.

When you really understand something because you are passionate about it, you come to see it multidimensionally. Just talk to any serious sports fan, motorcycle rider, car lover, and yes, even gardener. The metaphor works because when all is right with the world, it looks easy. Only those who know just how hard it is know what pains it took to get you to the point you're at.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful garden!

viagra online said...

That's like cut flowers: very pretty but short-lived, can be applied to products with longer life?

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