Last week, I planted a tomato plant. Actually, I planted two as a meager attempt to get back into gardening. As I was putting them in the ground, it occurred to me that, as an educator, my job is very much like gardening. I don't mean that it's dirty work, although that's sometime true. Instead, the work of an educator is like tending to the seeds in a garden. If you've ever planted a garden, you know that the first step is to prepare the soil, often removing weeds and tilling up the good dirt. You might also add fertilizer. Then, you make your rows or mounds to ensure the plants have room to grow. Third, you plant the seeds in the soil and water them. After that, the next few days or weeks are spent watering the seeds and watching as they grow. Over time, after continued watering, weed pulling, and pest killing, you can finally collect the harvest. If you don't do these steps, chances are the plants will either not grow or they will not bear fruit.
In the same way, the children who walk into our schools and classrooms are like the plants in a garden. Some are seeds, just waiting to sprout. Others are already in various stages of growth and need our help to keep them on the right path. Some have come in with soil preparation already underway. Others are trying to grow in a patch of weeds. Some receive water every day. Others are still waiting for someone to turn on the hose. Some are healthy and bearing fruit already. Others are stunted. Some are in perfect soil. Others may need to be transplanted to grow. The funny thing is, on the outside, they all look like kids. It is our job to build relationships strong enough so that we can see where they are in their growth. Then, like a gardner, we have to provide the necessary support to help them grow. That support will rarely be the same for every child. Some will need more time and effort to grow than others. Some might not even sprout during their time with us. It doesn't matter though. Each one can grow. We must choose to never give up on them, but keep nurturing until they finally grow into the people they were created to be.