Friday, December 04, 2009


I have often enjoyed comparing my work as a teacher to that of a gardener. Both of us are interested in helping things grow – the gardener her plants and I my burgeoning students. Both of us take pleasure in walking among our charges, admiring the expansion of leaves or minds, and both of us love the times when we can stand apart and marvel at the final product – the unfolded flower petals, the spreading-out minds of teenagers. What I find especially satisfying about this metaphor is that neither the gardener nor I has any control over the kind of final products our work will produce. A zinnia seed will produce a zinnia, and the young people in my classes will become exactly what they are capable of becoming, no matter how much I may think I am “guiding” them. All the gardener and I can do is prepare the environment, supply the appropriate nutrients, pull the “weeds”, and then … step back and patiently wait. A gardener uses manure to stimulate the growth, and I use my daily lessons. I sometimes spread a few suggestions about sentence variety among the students in the hope that full-bodied essays will sprout in a few days, and occasionally I scatter advice about revision, hoping it will allow their paragraphs to be more handsome and healthy. What I must always remember is that silver queen corn seedlings will become silver queen ears, and my students will become what they are individually equipped to become. All I can do is water, weed, wait, and be amazed.

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