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Tending Our Gardens

Ah, Spring. Now is the time where my family and I roll up our sleeves and dig into the dirt, preparing the soil for herbs, vegetables and flowers– up-rooting weeds, churning through the sun hardened soil and squishing our feet through the newly watered beds. We all have different approaches to accomplishing the same tasks. Personally, I love sifting the soil with my bare hands and don’t mind the layers of dirt caking my fingers. My mom on the other hand, wears gloves and wields a handy shovel.

As I was weeding the pots, I began to think about how these different approaches could be applied to look at school. Some schools take a gloved approach to learning- tackling material at a distance. But others dig right into the curriculum, unafraid to get their hands dirty in the process of truly learning. I think that in the world of education, the two approaches have different impacts. With gloves, you can only absorb and learn what’s on the surface, a mere fraction of the total amount of dirt (knowledge). But by peeling off the gloves and allowing yourself to get dirty, to really dig into the material, the richer soil (knowledge/information) is unearthed.

Like all plants and other growing things, students need to be cared for. A fine crop of produce is the result of lots of hours of weeding, adequate water and nurturing. Like plants, a well-rounded group of students emerge out of similar conditions. With guidance and nourishment, coupled with a hands on base system, plants and students alike flourish. Schools call their teachers to be gardeners, helping the students bloom.

It’s important that gardens get tended to properly, and as gardeners, teachers help care for their garden. Without a solid roots system and enough care, students and plants alike can burn out, over powered by the weeds and obstacles in our lives. Even though in school, one straggling student often passes by unnoticed, a parched plant is easily discoverable. If we adopt the garden mindset, then these parched or struggling students will get the care they need to spring back up and flourish. And rejuvenating one student energizes others to seek help when needed.

Over my years in school, I’ve seen that the best teachers are the ones who control the class while simultaneously encouraging their students and making an effort to learn alongside them. These “effective gardeners” have made a huge impact on my life. Thanks to teachers like Ms. G, Mr. A, Mr. B, Ms. F, Mrs. H, Dr. M and Mr. S, and my parents (Mr. S and Dr. L) who have pushed me to be the best I can be and believed in me, I am who I am and where I am today.

But what if not only our teachers were gardeners? What if enthusiastic teachers helped students take control of their own upkeep, like a virtually self-sustaining plant that requires only a weed check and a trim every now and then?

Let’s make our classrooms like gardens, where learning is always in season!


6 thoughts on “Tending Our Gardens

  1. Tara – great piece. Reminds me a lot of this Haim Ginott quote:

    As Haim so eloquently puts, educators (and, I also believe, parents) it’s our personal approaches that creates the climate and daily moods that make the weather. Just like in gardening, some kids will thrive under conditions where others wither. We need to make sure we use gardening/learning “handbooks” to create learning conditions where ALL the kids in our classes or homes are given the right soil, nutrients, and amount of water to flourish…particularly the seedlings that are struggling.

    Posted by Jen Lilienstein - Founder, | April 16, 2012, 7:06 pm
    • Right. I’m not saying that one condition is universally good for all, but that the goal would be do create an adaptable environment where all students can be helped the way with what they need- a larger environment that allows for individual focus. This could mean having teacher-student conferences every now and then, or simply letting your students know that you’re available for them. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

      Posted by Tara S | April 17, 2012, 1:01 pm
  2. Who are the weeds, and what do we owe them?


    Posted by Chad Sansing | April 17, 2012, 12:50 pm
    • I was thinking more along the lines of the weeds as objects or emotions- stress, deadlines, standardized tests etc.. -stuff that weighs down the education system.

      Posted by Tara S | April 17, 2012, 1:11 pm
  3. Tara. Wonderful Post. It definitely captures the Springtime energy we need in new approaches to rethinking learning. What if our community saw schools as gardens where they were invited to offer their expertise, to learn from the young ones, and to commune with teachers and staff? How much more could blossom if all who lived around a school felt called to join in? Would it be such a relief on teachers who have to carry such a heavy load?Keep writing!!

    Posted by charles kouns | April 21, 2012, 12:25 pm


  1. Pingback: CHANGEd 60-60-60: « Toward Wide-Awakeness - April 22, 2012

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