ByTeresa Shockey Campbell
Every summer I have the opportunity to refresh and renew as a school teacher. I am an avid vegetable gardener, and I would like to share with you how my garden is my field of dreams, and how it contributes to my constant motivation as a teacher...
Every spring, I plant green beans. My husband tirelessly cleans up, weeds, and then tills my garden for me. Then he goes through and makes tiny rows for me to plant my beans. I plant them all on the same day at the same time. They are quickly covered with soil and watered. Each bean gets the same amount of water, and each bean receives the same amount of sunlight. My husband continues to weed the rows for me as they grow into tiny seedlings, so that I can get my joy of reaping what I have sown. Interestingly, although each bean was planted at the same time, watered at the same rate, and received equal sunshine, when I go to pick, some beans just aren’t ready to be harvested.
I equate this to my students every year. While all of my students have received 9 years of education before they enter my class, not all of them are ready for the “harvest.”
Why is that?
Just like my beans, why are students, who have so many more variables in their lives than simple green beans, expected to be equal learners? And, how as an educator, can I transfer my knowledge of harvesting green beans to helping my students learn and grow?
Now, I go through each row of beans in the early morning when it’s cool and quiet. I tediously search the leaves of each plant and pick the largest, longest beans that I will later that day “put up” (my grandma’s phrase for canning and storing for the winter) for later dinners throughout the upcoming year. When I see small beans and tiny blooms waiting to sprout, I think to myself how they have not grown at the same rate as the big beans.
Do I just pick the good beans and move on? Absolutely not!
I go back in a few more days, with bucket in hand, and I check for the growth on those tiny beans. I will not let them go to waste. They will also be part of my harvest! I always can between 55-65 quarts of beans each summer. Just because a few beans are slower at developing, I will not let that shrink my canning numbers. It’s a process. It’s a long process. I don’t just plant and just pick – remember, these little fellas need rain and sunlight. If it gets too dry, I have to water them. When the weeds start to invade, they must be held at bay so as not to overtake my plants.
And just like my beans, teaching my students is that same long process.
I have to get the higher level achievers (big beans) ready to move forward, and I have to keep checking on my strugglers (tiny sprouts) to see what kind of extra help they need: extra time, a different passage to read, or a breakfast to eat to fill their tummies. When I keep adding these extra strategies to my classes and my students, I see growth, and they see growth. We are all encouraged to keep learning, to keep growing, to get ready for that harvest of the next grade!
This is my garden, my classroom, and my “field of dreams.” I hope you, too, will cultivate your classrooms into your own “field of dreams.”
WVCTE is wondering...
How do you reach the "big beans" and "little beans" of your classrooms? How do you teach all learners despite their varying abilities?
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