Isaiah 61:11 (NIV) “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.”
Proverbs 28:19 (NIV) “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.”
Genesis 2:15 (NIV) “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
“Gardens, it turns out, are about generosity, virtue, and justice as much as growth, pruning and patience.” (Smith and Felch, 2016, p. 92)
I was raised in a family where the garden was always in the forefront of my parents’ minds from mid April to late September. (I grew up in Tennessee where the climate is slightly warmer and gardening begins earlier than here in southern Ontario.) I remember that my parents would work together to turn over the dirt, break up the clods and prepare the soil for the planting season. They would carefully select the vegetables they would plant and also the location of each plant in the garden’s design so that it would thrive, but also work well with its neighboring vegetable plants. The weather was watched and rain and sunshine were prayed for. When rain was lacking, water would be supplemented by the garden sprinkler, garden hoses and slow-drip watering buckets. Weeds were faithfully pulled. Beans were staked and tomato plants caged. Scarecrows with aluminum pie pans were constructed and placed to “scare away the crows”.
My parents knew what to give each plant – more water, extra fertilizer, pulling more weeds, and thinning or trimming for extra sunlight. Some might say they “listened” to the needs of their garden. They poured themselves into the garden, trusting that in return the garden would thrive and provide for them and their family a bountiful harvest. Throughout the summer months and into early September, the garden was harvested and my mother would spend hours in the kitchen canning and freezing the vegetables so that their goodness would be enjoyed throughout the remaining months of the year. This abundance was due, definitely in some part to my parents’ knowledge of the garden and the various vegetables that were planted in it.
As educators, we too have been given the important role of gardener. We are called to “work and take care of our garden.” Our garden is the classroom in which we teach. It is made up of students that have been placed under our care for the duration of their time in our class and in our schools.
How do we as educators, each summer and early in the school year, prepare the classroom, the curriculum, and our pedagogical practices so that when the students are “planted” into our care, they are in nutrient-rich soil? Once students have been placed into our “garden”, how do we care for them? What do we do to ensure that they will thrive while under our care? “Weeds” and “crows” such as fear of failure, unhealthy competition, fear of humiliation, and desired social status amongst peers all need to be removed so that students can grow to their fullest potential. In what ways throughout the school year do we “water” our students? At times, the way in which we pour into our students may look like a steady rain and at other times, we may realize that our students need a continuous slow-drip watering bucket. Needs of students vary and it is important for the educator as the gardener to understand those needs and to do their best to meet those needs so that each student can thrive.
Isaiah 61:11 says that “soil makes the sprout come up and the garden causes seeds to grow,” and Proverbs 28:19 reminds us that “those who work the land will have abundant food.” We know these verses to be true in regards to actual soil, seeds, and the work that a gardener does to help the plants produce. If we, as educators, view our classroom as our garden, we then too must see that “good soil” will encourage growth in our students and the garden that we create will produce abundant students–students who recognize God’s great love for them, students who have opportunities to impact the world for good, and students who continue to grow and be formed into the people that God has made each of them to be. We want our students to thrive spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically and academically. As we teach the whole child, we as gardeners need to be aware of how we care for each plant, giving it what it needs to grow and to produce abundantly.
May we as Christian educators, with God’s grace and guidance, lean into the important role of gardener and may our students reap a bountiful harvest.