Teachers are Like Gardeners

Maslow Versus NCLB

When my son was in seventh grade I learned that his teacher would be looping up with him to eighth grade. I was distressed, because to say that his seventh-grade year had been less than academically rigorous would be a flagrant understatement. I considered moving him to a different school for his eighth-grade year, to prevent the brutal wake-up call he was headed for as a High School freshman. But my son’s teacher was doing a few things really well—he cared about the kids and worked very hard to make sure that his classroom was a warm, accepting community. They did and learned virtually nothing, but they loved one another—and that’s quite an accomplishment in middle school. I decided that if Maslow was right about anything, I was better off leaving him safe and happy with his friends. And, yes, his first year of high school was brutal, but I stand by my decision. Learning environment trumps all.

Mechanized Versus Organic Education

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you know that I am an avid disciple of Sir Ken Robinson. In his book, Creative Schools, he discusses the ways in which we have traditionally viewed education as a mechanized process—i.e. students are like raw material that we put through a series of procedures in order to churn out a product. Robinson asserts that education is actually more akin to an organic process, like gardening. Every gardener knows that they aren’t in any way capable of manufacturing an ear of corn. A gardener’s job is to continually create the ideal environment for an ear of corn to germinate, sprout and thrive.

Watch Sir Ken’s 2-½ minute video, explaining his Teachers as Gardeners analogy.

Our Three Concepts

At Inquiry By Design, we agree with Sir Ken. We believe that the classroom culture that gives our students the best chance of germinating, sprouting and thriving, is built around the three concepts of apprenticeship, conversation, and environment.

Apprenticeship – metaphor for teaching that maintains the teacher’s primary role is to apprentice students to the real work of the discipline.

Conversation – Draws from the theory of socializing intelligence that posits that we get smarter by talking to each other.

Environment – Apprenticeship and conversation aren’t possible without intentionally establishing a classroom environment and culture to support them.

Read more about these concepts in our upcoming posts, and take a moment to leave a comment, sharing one of the ways that you create a “fertile” learning environment in your classroom.