Thursday, May 28, 2009

Teaching Wisdom from the Gardener

Gardening is a thinking time. It's a contemplative and meditative frame of mind while I'm digging, pulling, and patting the earth. The acts of planting or weeding take very little conscious concentration, and instead let my mind wander along other paths.


The first year of the garden I struggled. I planted some things that just didn't work in the space and the soil. The grass and the creeping ivy kept invading. It took several years to get the remnants of grasses out of the garden plot. There's a reason for the term "grass-roots organizing." Grass roots are strong, they don't let go, and they are determined to live on and prosper. I'll keep that in mind as I write letters to my legislators at the state and federal level and ask for more equitable school funding formulas.


I've learned along the way. My first few years of teaching I relied on basics, taking the textbooks as my guides. As I learned more and gained confidence, my teaching methods improved and I began to differentiate for various learning styles and ability levels. Every year I garden I learn something new. Last year the sun just wasn't reaching the plants the way they needed it, so I re-planned the whole layout this year. Oh, I almost forgot, we cut down a tree, too.

I call myself a lazy gardener. No one dares call me a lazy teacher! It's okay to limit the amount of extra time I spend on schoolwork by prioritizing, focusing, and organizing. My family needs me, and I need Me Time, too. I've already decided to drop off one of the main committees at school when the year is done: the committee that does the test score data analysis, among other tasks. I stuck with it through the grant writing and the introductory collaboration, and now that I look at the summer commitments for this group, it's going to be too much. The data analysis itself will require a whole new set of training and skills that are just not in my schedule right now. I serve my school well, and this specific committee will achieve its goals without my presence.


Lazy gardener? I plant, weed, and water, and eventually harvest. If the weeds aren't totally eradicated, I don't sweat it. But that's not laziness, really. Compost takes a small amount of time, and it's well worth the effort. Reading books and browsing web sites on gardening also helps, and those activities take time, too. I find the time investment worthwhile. It pays off later.


That leads to another item: time investments. I'm dropping off a major committee. I did, however, register for a course in teaching students with ADHD. In the past two years I've seen more students than ever with difficulty focusing, staying on task, resisting impulses, and more. Some have diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, some with and some without the Hyperactivity element. A few kids probably don't have a medical reason for their difficulties, but can benefit from some of the ideas and knowledge I'll gain from the course. It's worth three graduate credits, but more than that, it's well worth my time. This time investment will pay out later in direct and improved student contact.


I'll probably do the bulk of the coursework for this graduate class on rainy days, a cup of coffee by my side, while the rain barrel fills and the garden soil soaks up the water. I'll do the rest on the deck after watering and weeding and turning the compost. Balance? Summer is all about balance. Maybe that's the best piece of wisdom of all.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

balance is good. I hope your class pays off!

5/29/2009 9:54 AM  
Blogger KMulford said...

Mmmm... Lovely parallels. Well-thought-out post. Gardening and teaching are similar, and yet so different. As we approach June, you make me eager to start the new crops in my backyard... and contemplate the new approaches I'll take for next year's students. Happy summer, my friend.

5/30/2009 12:33 PM  

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