Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Fresh Perspective on an Old Adage: A classroom is like a garden

We've all read them: analogies between education and gardening, learning and seeds, students and plants. These comparisons have been written about so frequently, that they have reached the status of being cliche. And, while I generally try to stay away from overwritten topics, I had a thought this morning while watering my garden. As I continued down the row of vegetables my son and I planted, this thought grew, and I quickly realized it was today's Slice of Life!

What started out as my musings about how some fruits and vegetables grow rather quickly, while others slowly, soon materialized into reflections on how my students also grow at different rates. This is an oversimplified version of what transpired in my mind's eye this morning, so allow me to elaborate.

When my son and I planted our first little slice of garden, we planted sunflowers, radishes, greens, corn, carrots, green beans, and kale. I, being a product of our fast-paced, wired society, expected immediate results:


What I got, though, was a lesson in patience and individuality! 

You see, some plants sprouted within days, yielding concrete evidence that all our nurturing and caring was paying off, while others did most of their work underground, invisible to the naked eye. 

Take, for example, the radishes: those sprouted, grew, and matured so quickly that I didn't even have the forethought to take pictures of their development! Similar to the radishes were our sunflowers. They sprouted right out of their shells for all to see, unharnessed and uninhibited:


And, within days, evidence of their growth was blarignly obvious:




Until, one day, with very little support and guidance from me, they blossomed into the magnificent flowers they were destined to become:


Some even outgrew the space I thought large enough for them to flourish, and they reached beyond even my expectations:

These are the students who will be successful no matter what learning situation they find themselves. But, my analogy doesn't end there, because not all of our students learn and grow at the same rate.

Weeks after my son and I planted our carrot seeds, we still had no proof that they were viable. I had almost given up hope that any of them would sprout; but, unable to give up, I kept watering and watching, until one day, the tiniest piece of evidence:


So tiny, that I wasn't even sure it was a carrot! But, as more popped up, I reclaimed my hope that somewhere, underneath the surface, all my attention and nurturing had, indeed, taken root:


Over time, they started to resemble the bushy tops of carrots! Weeks went by and the carrots slowly but surely grew, nurtured by my constant watering and caring, until voila:


As I reflect on those crucial weeks in the beginning, I realize that, had I given up when I thought there was no proof of life, I would have squashed any hope of bringing this bountiful crop to harvest.

Naturally, I can't help but think of how many students I have given up on too soon because their growth and development, their learning, was happening deep down, out of my view!

Then, there are those students who defy logic; who, out of nowhere and with no support, grow from the most unlikely situations. These are my rogue tomato plants, sprouting from arid, parched ground, picking up the water residue from nearby plants, and blossoming into lush greenery:



Producing their own fruit, these students challenge our antiquated education system, inspiring us to bring about change:


So, my lesson today is about patience and not giving up, even when I don't have irrefutable evidence that learning and growing occurs.

10 comments:

  1. Great analogy! Time is never mentioned as necessary for gardening (and seldom these days for learning) but it is of the essence for sure!

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    1. Thanks, fireflytrails! You are so right; time never seems to be a deciding factor when addressing education. Although, I have been reprimanded for "squandering" my instructional minutes trying to run with a teachable moment! I do believe we can change this, though :-)

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  2. Too bad those who create mandates declaring all children reach the same goal at the same time don't spend time in a garden nurturing plants. Wow! What awesome sunflowers!

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    1. Thanks, Elsie! Some got so big, they toppled over. But, I haven't had the heart to cut them because they are still growing, so they are growing across my patio :-)

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  3. This is just beautiful - so apt!

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  4. Wow! Love the real pictures that beg for a closer examination (close read)! Reminds me of Mrs. Spitzer's Garden!

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    1. I'm not familiar with Mrs. Spitzer's Garden, Fran! But, will check it out :-) Thanks for the visit and comment, by the way!

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  5. I loved this fresh perspective! Such good things to reflect on as I gear up for another year of teaching and coaching. I loved the pictures and reflections together.

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    1. Thanks so much for the visit! I'm glad it has given you some food for thought as we head in to a new school year :-)

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