|"Garden Seat", oil, by Debra Sisson|
Getting a new perennial flower garden going this summer has been a fun project for me, and it’s reminded me of a no-nonsense admonition about both gardening and teaching: you can’t get flowers growing or students learning without systematic and scrupulous preparation. When I started on the garden last week, I simply didn’t realize how time-consuming the preparation stages would be, mostly involving the thorough removal of old grass and weeds and the spreading of fertilizer and mulch. I guess I had innocently imagined that flower gardens can get going overnight – just get some plants, plop them in holes, and have fun watching them blossom. After a full week of work just to prepare the soil, there’s no doubt in my mind that I didn’t understand much about starting a garden – and there are times when I’m not so sure I know much about starting a learning process for my students. Now and then I find myself rushing into a lesson instead of letting the learning proceed in a well-paced, well-considered manner. I always plan my daily lessons, but that’s sort of like planning how and where to plant the flowers. It’s an important step, for sure, but it must always be preceded (and this is what I sometimes disregard) by careful preparation far in advance of the individual lesson. The “soil” of the lesson must be plowed and nurtured in the days and weeks preceding it, otherwise learning, like hastily planted flowers, will fold up and fade away.