Cultivating the Garden – Cultivating Our Students

Cultivating the Garden – Cultivating Our Students

Cultivating the Garden, Cultivating Students

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

A teacher is not unlike a gardener.

Time flies so quickly, especially as we get older. It’s now fall and a new school year is underway.

Last weekend as I prepared my garden for winter I started to think about how educators are like gardeners. A gardener sows seeds and then watches the flower seeds turn into beautiful flowers and the vegetable seeds yield their harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and squash. No two flowers are the same, even if the seeds came from the same package. I love seeing the different colors of zinnias and marigolds and the shapes and sizes of tomatoes, each one unique, even on the same plant.

The growth and blooming of flowers and vegetables does not happen spontaneously. The gardener has to water them, feed them, prune them and pull up the weeds. The plants also need the warmth of the sun and the diffusion of rain to grow.

A teacher is not unlike a gardener. To a teacher, students are the flowers that bloom and the vegetables that mature. But unlike the gardener, teachers do not always see the seeds of knowledge planted in the classroom mature and blossom.

I work in high schools and follow students from freshman year until they graduate. I watch them grow and develop over those four years. In those years, students grow physically and mentally with the help of their teachers, administrators, fellow students, and of course families. I marvel at meeting a student as a freshman and then seeing the transformation that has taken place when the student has become a senior. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s the same person!

Teachers are the ones who get to witness the greatest growth in their students. Teachers plant the seeds and then watch the flowers grow. EL teachers will watch their students go from speaking and reading very little English to being noticeably and measurably more proficient at the end of the school year. I have seen this growth in an EL class. The class used our JFYNet reading comprehension program. In September, they needed to have the assignments read to them in English. By the end of the school year, they were reading English by themselves and were able to increase their ACCESS language proficiency test scores by two to four levels. The teacher who planted the seeds of English in these students had a beautiful bouquet of flowers at the end of the school year.

Teachers often get to see the result of a seed or a concept planted by another teacher bloom when the student finally gets it. I have witnessed this delayed flowering many times in my classes. It is exciting to see the light bulb go on when the student finally puts it all together and understands a concept. Or it might be a student who hated math coming to love it at the end of a semester. I teach a small class of adults and only have students for a semester. Imagine how exciting it is to see this happen to all the students a teacher has taught in the four years of high school!

Teachers have the unique ability to plant ideas, concepts and seeds of knowledge in students with the hope that someday they will blossom and the student will realize what a gift has been given. Teachers are not alone in this garden: parents, peers and other friends and relations also plant seeds and cultivate growth. With sun and rain, young people grow and blossom into the unique person they are meant to be. And each season, we plant again.

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