Sometimes You Gotta Let the Berries Grow
Three years ago I planted a garden. Well, two really. Side by side in a small clearing in the woods behind our house. Last year I accidentally buried and killed the strawberries in one garden, but we got 8 times as many raspberries as the year before in the other. Yes one raspberry wasn’t a lot that first year, but I’m told that’s the way gardening works.
This year I’ve done nothing with the garden. Been busy. Teaching, writing, kid baseball and soccer. Life.
Before I left for four days to #EdCampLdr and #FlipCon15 I intended look at our fledgling “garden” and pick any raspberries that had shown up. It’s that time of year. I didn’t do it. While on the road, one of my requests to my wife (e.g. kiss the kids for me, have some fun, etc), was to see if there were berries to pick. Last year the wild blackberries dried out while we were at Disneyland. She said she would. She didn’t (not that she has time anyway, because she’s always being awesome for our family in a thousand other ways!).
So when I got home I took a look at our raspberry plants. They were full of gloriously tasty treats.
With no help from me. With no fertilizer, weeding, or tender loving care, these wonderfully resilient plants had figured out a way to do it on their own. Now, I had planted the seed (or more accurately: one raspberry plant). They had expanded and spread throughout the garden. Tall, medium, and small plants now filed the garden. There were berries on them all. At different stages of ripeness, they presented the fruit that was ready while maintaining the promise of more to come.
I’ve taken this gritty little group under my wing. They are my summer school class. And I’ve decided they don’t need me much. Sure, they needed me to plant the seed. But they’ve taken it from there. There is differentiation, and not everybody is ready to move on to our kitchen, but they will be. If we give them time. Just like my other classes. And like my other classes, they didn’t need me to spread a bunch of fertilizer. They snuffed out the weeds on their own, and they tended to, and cared for themselves.
Maybe in my other classes I also need to plant the seed. Maybe I need to tell students some things here and there, and maybe they need me to fix misconceptions and pull some of the most pervasive intruders into their critical thinking process. But they can do a lot of the rest of it. They can spread out to different areas. They can follow their own path. They can branch out to other parts of the garden of learning. They can conquer huge tracts of land. If I get out of their way sometimes, and let them grow. Let them find the way.
I wonder what would have happened if I buried them with all my good intentions. You know, like the strawberries.
My students probably need me a bit (because you should see the second garden..no raspberries planted, but weeds as high as an 8 year old). But they don’t need me all the time to answer every question, and to fix every problem. I’ll be there anyway. I’ll help. I’ll guide. I’ll show and tell and connect. I’ll be right in the dirt with them. But maybe not as much as before. They’ll be OK finding their way on their own. And if they need me, they’ll know where to find me. I’ll be in the garden. I’ve got berries to pick.