Slice of Life Tuesday: First, discover what is there.

old bulbs

I love gardening, but I have come to accept the fact that I’m not a very good gardener.  Part of this failing comes from a tendency to impatience – I buy the plants with great enthusiasm, find and clear the perfect spot, and then  dig away.  Nine times out of ten, I find that someone has planted something else in this perfect spot long ago, and then I wished I’d taken the time to follow my mother’s gardening rule: first, discover what is there.  I was thinking about this rule on Sunday, when I dug deep to plant some cone flowers, and found myself gazing at a shovel full of bulbs.  Annoyed, I set aside my perfect pot of flowers, and spent the next twenty minutes fixing all that I had carelessly undone…which led me to make (of course!) a teaching connection.

As I forge ahead in my summer PD reading and Twitter learning, collecting brilliant ideas from the likes of Colleen Cruz, Jennifer Serravallo, and Dr. Mary Howard, I will have to keep my mother’s rule in mind.  Before I launch my mini lessons, unveil new units of study, reveal the treasures of our classroom library, I will need to take the time to first discover what is there.  So, even as I plan new ventures and approaches, I’m making a mental note to attend to the following:

  • revamping my beginning of the year surveys – am I asking  questions  that will yield meaningful answers?
  • thinking of structuring individual and small group conferences so that I can learn from what my kids share, and the questions and concerns they pose?
  • planning thoughtful readalouds with books that will draw us together as a learning community, set the tone for the school year, and allow my kids opportunities for our first conversations about the stories we read and how we discover ourselves through them.
  • figuring out creative but authentic ways in which to assess their writing so that I can learn what they are good at as well as what I need to teach.

Before I charge ahead in the new school year, I must commit to discovering, first, what is there.

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24 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: First, discover what is there.

  1. A beautiful reflection! I’m not a gardener as well, but helpful advice to discover what is there first. Ah, but the connection to the classroom! Agreed! We must discover what is there first … and as always, you have thought ahead to specifically what you will notice and discover. Your gardens all around you will be growing and blossoming!

  2. Your mother is a wise woman, now her daughter is just as wise while she considers what needs to be done at the beginning of the year. Your students are so lucky to have such a thoughtful teacher planning their year of learning.

  3. I love your gardening and teaching connection and your thoughtful message. You wove them all together seamlessly. You may not be a master gardener but you are certainly a talented wordsmith. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a beautiful metaphor. And, I love the way your mother’s words echoed in your mind. Your mental notes have caused me to ponder my upcoming school year too! I wish you well with your gardening!

  5. What an excellent comparison. The idea of stopping a moment and getting to know my new groups prior to launching into what I’ve had time to think about all summer. Great advice.

  6. It is true that we don’t always discover what is there until we start digging. This does apply to gardening as well as teaching. Knowing this this your flowers and your students will blossom beautifully.

  7. This is how it is with a thoughtful teacher like wonderful you! Your teacher’s heart is always contemplating and it comes through every activity you are involved with. I am so appreciative that you share your observations that help inform my thinking, too!

  8. Your mother and mine share that little piece of wisdom! I’ve got a whole box of bulbs in my garage which I didn’t even realize I had dug up until I’d planted their replacements and went to dump the extra displaced soil. Now they need a new spot, but I don’t even know what they are!

    Once again, I should’ve listened to my mother.

  9. Wisdom indeed, Tara. We do tend to create wonderful beginning-of-the-year activities, and forget that the students already come with full suitcases (not negative baggage, just lots of learning). Love that you discovered this metaphor for the year’s beginning. I imagine there is lots to discover on your new place!

  10. “…first, discover what is there.”

    I’ve written this in my coaching notebook, to remind myself that this is just as important to do as I work with teachers. And isn’t a much better use of our time? Rather than spending our time fixing what we might otherwise have undone?

    Susan

    • Tara, It seems turning off the teacher is impossible. Its not what I do, but who I am. I had a few teachers in elementary that i know loved teaching like we do and I wish I had known then that they also tied teaching to all they do. It’s still hard to see my past teachers as humans.
      Susan, cousins think alike! I also added this to me notebook!

  11. Tara, this was beautiful. I love the connection you made between gardening and teaching, and of course, the reminder to “first, discover what is there.”

  12. When I was a classroom teacher (gulp, I’m taking the leap to Literacy Strategist this fall), I used to call my students my ‘sprouts’ because they had so much potential, just waiting to burst from the ground and reach towards the sun. I loved your post and your reflections before starting the new school year.

  13. So wise. Every summer I revel in my learning. BUT taking in where my kiddos are is something I have to keep in mind. Fortunately, I brought home my incoming students’ notebooks. Boy does that ground me. Reading a bit of PD then a bit of student work makes for a happy summer.

  14. You really are a master at metaphor. This one works so well. Our gardens need time to let us know who they are before we go messing around in them.

  15. Such an important line – “first, discover what is there.” We love the way this line begs all of us to watch, listen and question. Your mother was a very wise woman.

    Here is another saying about gardening – creep, sleep, leap. Gardeners use this expression because it takes plants 3 years to really settle into their new home.

  16. Tara- Wow! This is about as close to perfect as you can get. Some big, big truth here! I want to print this piece and use it at our first data team meeting! I’m a bad gardener too!

  17. I love when teachers find lessons from every day life and show how wise words in one area apply in their school life. The lesson you shared is a solid one – a basis for all the rest that follows.

  18. I love the metaphor you created here between gardening and teaching. You are so right about taking the time to “see what’s there.” I love the things you are thinking about…so important!

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