Thursday, May 7, 2015

Planting Seeds...Seeing Sprouts

Image by Denise Krebs
[CC BY 2.0]
I have been marking (grading? correcting?) like a madman these past few days.

It's the end of the semester, and I am--as usual--feeling behind the 8-ball.

How does it all pile up like this at the end? It seems to always end up this way. Unit plans, papers, portfolios, final all has to be reviewed.

I tell myself it won't happen this way again next time...every semester.

And then...

While I am in the thick of marking, a student stops by. She is one of my advisees, and so I've gotten to know her quite well over the past three years. She has recently completed her student teaching, and she is graduating tomorrow. And she stopped in, just to chat.

Marking can wait.

We spent an hour visiting. She told me about her job search, her "goodbyes" to her students and to her roommates, her excitement about becoming a professional teacher. I asked about how things went in her student teaching, and she admitted that she was nervous getting started. Teaching is hard! It is kind of scary, even.

But she also said that she caught herself in some of those hard, scary moments thinking, "Oh, but this is what Mulder said...and I'll just do it like this..." and it worked. (!!!) Student teaching was a success!

Wow. I feel a weird mixture of emotions hearing that. I'm honored, and humbled, and grateful, and slightly terrified.

We wrapped up our conversation, and I got back to marking. But I kept thinking about this.

So much of teaching is about planting seeds. And for me as a teacher of teachers, I'm thinking about the opportunities I have to cultivate this corner of the education garden...

In Introduction to Education, I plant some seeds, and perhaps pull some weeds. I (hopefully) help students discern their calling as professional educators. I (hopefully) open their eyes to both the challenges and joys of the teaching profession. I (hopefully) encourage those who should become teachers to start germinating into the dedicated educators they will become.

In Middle School Curriculum and Instruction and the methods courses I teach, I plant more seeds, and I water the sprouts that are starting to appear. I (hopefully) mentor these preservice teachers in the habits and mindsets that will make them more effective at meeting their students needs. I (hopefully) model good practices for planning, instruction, and assessment. I (hopefully) encourage those sprouts to break through the surface.

I also have the pleasure of supervising student teachers. Here I have the chance to see those tender shoots stretch up, spread leaves, and flourish! I (hopefully) provide good advice to these teachers in training. I (hopefully) help them prune unhelpful practices, and coach them a bit on how to better reach all of their students. I (hopefully) give them the encouragement they need to start bearing real fruit!

My visit with my soon-to-be-graduated senior was an affirmation that I am in the right place. (I love what I do!) But I'm also taking it as an admonishment to be mindful of the hand I have in tending this corner of the garden where I'm currently called.


  1. Beautiful post, Dave! Thanks for telling me about it. I'm sure you have many students like this one that you are blessing. Tending the garden is a great metaphor for what you do with students. (even another reason because you are in Northwest Iowa!) It takes time, doesn't it!?

    Will you even believe this? That is Dordt's 8 ball! Our junior highers always took a fun trip for Catholic Schools Week, and we would go to your lovely campus to play, tumble, run, bowl, shoot hoops and pool, hold foosball tournaments, play racquetball, and so much more! Such a fun campus, and we were always warmly welcomed.

    Nice post! Good luck with that marking!


    1. That is hilarious about the 8 ball! :-D Honestly, I wondered...the ceiling looked like the game room to me...

      Thanks for the feedback. I do feel so grateful to be part of this place. My students are the best!

  2. Kim and I have learned over the span of our professional careers (30+ years now; ugh! How can I be THAT old?) that all of the work gets done regardless of how much there is and how far behind we feel as we get to this point in the semester. And the other thing that we know more now than ever is that the time we spend doing exactly what you did this morning with _____ is this it's worth it. Time spent talking, encouraging, and living is NEVER wasted on others, even if it feels like it for a short time now or in the future. The conversation you had today will be a memorable one for her and it was a blessing to you, too. Carry on with this affirmation of your priorities.

    1. Thanks for commenting, my friend. You're exactly right: I know I made the right decision with how to spend my time. I was blessed by the conversation too! Small steps in a positive direction...