This summer we have become gardeners. My children planted vegetables with their grandfather- tomatoes, lettuce and onions- and we are now reaping the benefits of our labor. As we have watered, weeded, worried, and worked for this crop, I have often marveled at the similarities between gardening and teaching. As Papa built the garden box and we placed the seeds and sprouts in the ground, enthusiasm ran high. The kids were so excited, grand dreams of a bountiful harvest running through their minds. Our school year starts the same way- we are all excited about new books, new subjects and our new schedule. Just as they regularly checked for weeds and dry soil the first few days, so too do my little students approach each lesson with enthusiasm and diligence.
As the summer progressed however, our plants held less appeal. Weeding and watering became mundane chores. That is, until fruit started to appear. All of a sudden they wanted to check their gardens each day, counting and watching each new piece of produce. So often in teaching we see this same thing demonstrated. What was once new and exciting, becomes routine, mundanely normal. Although we all recognize the value of these things (weeding and watering), there is also a time and place to add in something new and interesting. Plan a field trip for that topic, rearrange the order of lessons for a day, have school in a tent under the table, start a new read aloud book... the options are endless. As teachers, we need to remember how important it is to not get stuck in our comfortable easy school day ruts, but rather find ways to keep our children's delight of learning alive and strong.
Halfway through the summer, our tomatoes fell prey to blossom end rot. Who even knew there was such a thing?!? When six of their tomatoes turned black and rotten, my littles were devastated. What went wrong? We went from having bright, healthy fruit to this? Come to find out, it had started slowly, but because it occurs on the bottom of the tomato, we were completely unaware of its presence until that one glaring moment. I spent hours on the internet, called every gardener I knew and visited two stores until I found a solution to our problem. Once again, our tomatoes are thriving. There have been times with my children that I didn't realize something was amiss- a lesson they didn't understand, a skill we overlooked, a concept they couldn't grasp - until one glaring moment. What are we to do? Throw our hands up in despair and scrap the whole crop? No! We prayerfully research a new approach, tap into the resources we have available, perhaps even invest in remedial materials, until our students can succeed in that particular area.
We now have tomatoes coming out of our ears, delicious lettuce salads and onions for supper and two very proud and excited children. In the end, we all recognize that the effort we put in was completely worth it! We are reaping the benefits of our labor. Teaching can be exhausting, sometimes we don't feel like putting the time and energy into lessons. Sometimes we wish we didn't have to "garden." But just like late night waterings and hot afternoons weeding helped encourage our bountiful harvest, all of the time, sweat, energy and effort we pour into our children will be harvested someday- not just academically, but also in their habits and character. So, my fellow gardeners, I encourage you not to give up! Keep tending your darling "plants" and know that all the effort you are putting in is definitely worth it!