Monday, March 27, 2017

Plant Your Trees

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

This proverb is so appropriate when we think of our careers in education.

How many times have you put off that great idea you had? How often do you kick yourself because you imagine how far along you would be with that idea if you had started the moment you had it? How defeated are you just thinking about that right now?

This is the teacher's lament. We convince ourselves that we are so busy and so overworked that there's too much to attend to. You feel like the world is just passing you by and that the ideas and passions that once filled your bucket aren't worth the effort anymore. We are all guilty of beating ourselves up and saying "it's too late". Giving up rather than investing in our ideas because it seems futile anyway. The prophecy is self fulfilling. The only boundaries preventing you from your dreams are created by you.

Working in technology I see this a lot. Teachers who do not believe that something new is accessible to them. That freely admit, "I never learned how to do this." I think the saddest part of this mindset is the assumption that the story of their life is written. That they are bound to spend the rest of their career face pressed up against the glass watching the rest of world pass them by.

There's truth in the proverb. The best time to change WAS 20 years ago. It was also 10 years ago. And last year. And yesterday! But you cannot go back. And while time is passing you by, NOW is still the perfect time to act.

Action requires guts. It takes guts to admit to yourself that you need to change. More guts to commit to changing. And to admit you are worthy of what you want. When you think about it, every step you have taken to get to this point has been a choice. What is preventing you from making this one? Nothing but the barriers in your own mind.

In education it is very easy to get overtaken by the mundanities of the day to day. If you haven't been there, it's only a matter of time. Inevitably we will lose touch with our desire, our inspiration. We will stop feeding our passion, we will deaden our fire, and we will begin to go through the motions. That's natural. But not permanent.

What I find exciting and interesting about this is that, sometimes, if we are lucky, we can get that fire back. If we are open. If we seek opportunities. If we indulge our passions and desires. If we invest in new relationships. If we allow things we have long forgotten to re enter our hearts, we can refocus.

Being a connected educator is a large part of this for me. Connecting with passionate individuals makes that kind of change real. When I am feeling uninspired and that I have forgotten to plant too many trees, I just hop on Twitter and I look at the forest growing before my eyes. I pop into some classrooms of teachers I haven't seen in awhile and soak in their energy. I visit a new colleague in a new school and find something wonderful I have never seen before. I try out a new tool or app that I have been interested in but haven't opened my time up to. I read a dusty book that's been sitting on my shelf for too long.

If your classroom is a garden, what condition is it in? There are seasons when we are busy planting, toiling, and enjoying the fruit. There are seasons where we are maintaining. And then there are seasons when the weeds are coming too fast and we get discouraged and lost. Which season are you in? Here's a process for the uninspired to tend their garden.

Prepare

No gardener plants until their soil is ready. Have you prepared for change? Have you challenged yourself to learn something new? Redesign an aspect of your practice? Until you set a target, you can't start moving. Read a new book and get an idea. Check out a hashtag on Twitter. Get your soil ready.

Plan


Where will you grow your tree? What kind of tree are you growing? You know what you want to do, but you need a gameplan on how to do it. Consult some mentors in your life. Lay out a timeline or a target so you know what it will look like when your tree has grown.

Equip


Every gardener needs the right tools to do the job. A quick way to short circuit any real change in your life is to neglect to invest in that change. Education, experiences, relationships -- there are a lot of paths this can take. Attend a conference. Join a book study. Take a course. Create a cohort of teachers in your building. Do something to equip yourself with the necessary skills to help you reach your goal.

Maintain


Every garden grows a weed or two. Or 60. The process of change isn't an easy one and there are going to be some ugly messes that pop up in the process. How well you handle setbacks will dictate your progress. When things get hard are you going to quit? Or are you going to double down and find a way to make it work? Everything worth growing requires some maintenance to help it bloom into something amazing.

Pick your fruit


Hard work deserves rest now and then. Don't be afraid to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Bask in the beauty of what you have created. If we can't look on what we have cared for and grown with a satisfied smile, we might be going about this the wrong way. It is inspiring to see how far you've come. Accomplishment is motivating and feeds your desire to move on to the next task. Make sure you give yourself that simple pleasure.

Reflect and Recharge

This work is hard. Take a break and think back on the process. What worked? What didn't? What will you do differently next season? Just like our gardens might not yield the perfect results in our first season of growth, neither will anything we try for the first time. Reflection and adjustment is a crucial part of informing the process for your next attempt. Remember, you can try again. Now rest and get ready to make your impact greater next time.

What are you waiting for? Seize the day. Sure, the best time to get started was 20 years ago, but you're here today. The present is still the perfect time to make a difference. Plant your trees now so you don't end up back here next time you wish things were different.

4 comments:

  1. Great post! I definitely agree with this! I run into teachers all the time who say all this is nice but they don't know how or they never learned.

    Neither did we! We all had our first time trying these things. The difference is we tried them. And then we tried them again. And then we tried the next thing, too. It is so hard to get the first try out of somebody. That's why having a tech trainer committed to teachers and helping them along the way is sobimpirtant!

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  2. much obliged to you for an awesome post. Bonsai Tree Gardener

    ReplyDelete