Monday, July 28, 2008

Teaching & Gardening Part 2

Maybe I should name this post “How to Grow Tomatoes (I mean Students)” but I went with the basic title so I wouldn’t scare anyone else. I really enjoy gardening so much that I tend to look at gardening to see how it relates to teaching. According to Gardening with the Helpful Gardener on How to Grow Tomatoes, here are the points made:

“Not all tomatoes are the same.” I look at students and see them so differently. They all have their own personalities and learning styles. Too many times I see classes where teachers want them all to fit the same mold, think the same things, write the same things, without using any imagination or creativity. Just like it is impossible to have tomatoes that are all the same sizes, flavors, and colors, it is impossible to think that we will have students all the same. We need to look at their individuality and help build on their strengths.

“Tomatoes require plenty of sun.” Students require a lot of nurturing, positive encouragement and good teaching. Without it, students will end up hating schools and learning. For years my husband hated learning because of his bad experiences in school. Once he found out how to help himself (through other support systems), he began to love reading textbooks on his own. If he hadn’t found a way to do this, I don’t think he would have been as successful as he has been. What about the students who are not able to do this?

“As for soil, they will grow in just about anything you throw at them.” Yes, students will learn something no matter what kind of class they are in but is that the best we want for them? Will they grow strong and tall or will they learn some things that may not be in their best interest? Maybe this is how gangs are formed. Maybe they will learn that they hate schools and books. We can’t control all of the things students may learn no matter how much schools and parents try.

“Uniform watering is the key to nice fruit.” Students need consistency. Discipline needs to be consistent in order for it to be effective. I have seen a teacher change her discipline plan every 2 weeks because nothing was working and then she would complain about the students. Well, she wasn’t being consistent if it was changing every 2 weeks!

“As your plants get larger, they will need to be staked in order to support the weight of the fruits as they begin to grow.” We need to support our students as they begin to grow. We need to encourage them as they explore and discover new learning. If it is things we don’t know about, we can help them by learning along side of them.

“DO NOT REFRIGERATE TOMATOES! Ever! Fresh tomatoes start to fall off the flavor wagon as soon as they go below 55°.” If we are supporting and nurturing our students, we can’t just abandon them when we are finished teaching them. I tell my students that once they enter my classroom, they become part of my family and even after they leave, I want them to keep in touch with me. I have tutored students who are no longer in my classroom so they can continue succeeding in others. I have been to weddings and their children’s birthdays years later. I think it is important to keep these connections as much as possible so students don’t feel I was insincere when I said I cared about their future.

So, I feel growing students is a lot like growing tomatoes. You can get tomatoes that fall off the stem before fully mature and ones that die of stem rot; or you can get tomatoes that are fully ripe and become the highlights of your vegetable garden. It is all about how you plant and grow them!

Photo credit: early june ripeness by greenhem


sujokat said...

Pat what a delightful metaphor! As an obsessed gardener and teacher this rang very true and I agree with your conclusions, sometimes they can grow as we expect,at other times they will produce something to take our breath away!! Well said.

Nedra said...

Being a gardener myself I have truly enjoyed your post relating the hobby to the classroom. I've always felt that I must enjoy gardening as well as teaching because I enjoy nurturing children or plants and watching them grow.

As I learn about photography this summer I find myself making the same type of connections. The advice I read on becoming a better photographer can easily be applied in the classroom as well.

Angela Maiers said...

Pat-I love, love, love this metaphor!You have to get the book Mrs. Spitzers Garden bu Edith Pattou-I use this with teachers and this analogy. It works so perfectly!

Ms. Mize said...

I loved this post! I especially like the Do Not Refrigerate part. This is something I have not found myself stressing like I should. I am going to begin this year! Thank you.

Nadine N said...

Comparing teaching to gardening is such a wonderful metaphor. I especially liked the part about needing plenty of sun. Like your husband, I never had any "sun" from my teachers. It's because of that that I make a real effort to always be a positive influence, with a smile and a kind word of encouragement.

(For a networkchallenge.)

loonyhiker said...

sujokat: I love gardening too and amazed on how much tending to flowers and vegetables is so much like tending to my students.

loonyhiker said...

nedra: I bet photography would be a great hobby to compare to teaching in the classroom. Hmmm, maybe I will see a future post on your blog on this?

loonyhiker said...

angela maiers: I will check out that book. It sounds wonderful and I'd love to see how it can be used with teachers.

loonyhiker said...

ms. mize: I glad you enjoyed this post because I really enjoyed writing it.

loonyhiker said...

nadine n: I bet that is what makes you a good educator. If you have experience of what the kids are going through, it is easier for you to relate to them and meet their needs.

Chuck Bartok said...

Congratulations for blending my two favorite Subjects.

I have been using my farming and horse training experience for several years as a metaphor for Creating and Growing a Business, or advancing your Skills at any Level.
This year I am recording the progress of a tomato Patch in a Business Model.

You fan will enjoy watching Growing Tomatoes for Health and Wealth

Of course we appreciate Feedback and commnets.

We also have a related Blog,

Your writing skills are outstanding!

loonyhiker said...

chuck: Thanks for the link. I really enjoyed the video! I appreciate you reading my blog and commenting too!

buckaroojohn said...

Thank you...
It amazes me how much we can enjoy and share in the Cyber Age!

loonyhiker said...

buckaroojohn: Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Glad you enjoyed it!