“They are not growing! I’m going to fail science class!” said the girl staring at the dish looking disappointed.
“They are” said her mother, “you just can’t see it yet.”
Not doubting her parent for one second the girl asked “Well, what do I do then?”
“Make sure you put your dish in the sunlight every morning and make sure it has enough water…not too much not too little…just enough and then,” said her mother “you wait.”
Now that does not sound like something a ten year old can do easily – Wait?! Be patient?! What?! But I remember waking up every morning and putting my little dish on the window sill in the sunlight, making sure it had just enough water and then sprinting to catch my school bus in time. It did take a while and eventually one morning I saw little white stems emerging from within the thin cotton layers that held my precious black grams, the seeds to my science experiment. Once the white stems had found their way out into the open air I started seeing little green leaves forming. As the saplings turned upwards towards the Sun reaching out for light and carbon dioxide, I felt this exhilaration inside me. I had done it! I had successfully planted the seeds and they were turning into little saplings quickly. I didn’t even care about passing science class anymore…this was SO cool!
Over the years I have heard many uses of the phrase “planting the seeds” and I have always appreciated its significance. My entire family loves plants and we have a few green thumbs among us. While reading Professor Fowler’s work the story I mention above came to mind. The questions that she poses in her writing The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills made me realize that “planting the seeds” was not good enough anymore. When we take learning into account, as a teacher I can plant the seeds of basic concepts related to Counseling or Psychology or any other class I end up teaching through lectures, assignments, articles, YouTube videos and Ted Talks but whether those seeds are going to turn into saplings or dry up with too much sunlight or drown in too much water is also my responsibility. I cannot just plant a seed and leave it to fight for light and water! On the other hand, I cannot smother them with too much either – too much sunlight, too much water, too many nutrients…yikes! I have to be able to provide ideal conditions in which the seeds have the opportunity to thrive.
Therefore, I intend my approach to teaching being similar to how I approached growing black grams in a dish. It would involve fascination, exhilaration and patience. Buddhist teachings talk about the “middle path”, a path that runs through between any two polarities. I find myself trying to maintain this balance in my authentic teaching self. Balance between being structured and being fluid, balance between lecturing and discussing, balance between theoretical and experiential learning. Additionally, similar to how Buddhism predicts I anticipate it being a constant struggle, a consistent effort just like trying to be mindful. In my journey to define my authentic teaching self I hope to be able to continue balancing polarities – just the right amount of water and sunlight.