My great grandfather was a farmer, and although I don’t have any memory of the dairy farm that he sold, I do remember his huge garden. The red soil of Tridell, Utah was in stark contrast to the huge, green plants growing on each row. His garden was well-known through the whole area not only for the fruits and vegetables that it bore but also because of the reputation for being weedless. He was proud of that fact, but he was, even more, proud of the quality of the soil. I never understood how someone could be so proud of “dirt”.
My mother understood. A legacy of my great grandfather is that he taught his granddaughter about the importance of working the land. Quality soil had to be a top priority. As I grew up, my mom (being born with the greenest of thumbs) cultivated beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. She always worked the hardest at building the soil. Why? In short, fertile soil provides anchorage for roots, oxygen, water, temperature modification, and nutrients. The quality of the soil determines how well plants can grow. (Just for the record, I do NOT have a green thumb as I have killed many plants including the silk variation.)
As I reflected about 2015 and pondered my one word for 2016, “Growth” came to my mind and never left. Fitting, that my focus for the upcoming year should take me back to my roots, to the importance of fundamentals, to a place where my focus will be on the “soil”. Here’s my attempt to break down “Growth” into the essential elements that will help me to come closer to reaching my potential.
“Soil” supports plant growth by providing:
Anchorage: Root systems spread outward/downward through the soil to anchor and stabilize the plant. My anchor for professional growth is my PLN. Some of my roots are deep and fortified by the relationships that I’ve built over an extended time. I’m nourished daily by my interactions with PLN family, friends, and tribe members. Other roots are spreading as I continue to connect and grow my PLN. I’m also anchored by my colleagues who work within my school and district. They keep me “grounded” and inspire me to continue moving forward.
Oxygen: Spaces among soil particles contain air that provides oxygen, which living cells use to break down sugars and release the energy needed to live and grow. Anyone that knows me well knows that I need space to breathe. To grow, I need a degree of autonomy. I need time and space to take risks and try new things. I need to be creative and play with ideas. This year, I will focus more on providing this opportunity for my students. I’m amazed at the talent and gifts of my students and their potential to change the world. I want to help them find their voice. In doing so, they will give me the energy that I need to live and grow.
Temperature Control: Soil insulates roots from drastic hot and cold fluctuations in temperature. Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM, said, “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and Comfort do not coexist.” I’ve never been a stranger to trying new things, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been shaking in my shoes with fear. The very fact that I’m blogging is evidence of conquering a fear- a fear so paralyzing that I couldn’t breathe when I clicked on “PUBLISH” for the first time. As I look forward to a new year, I know that I must accept challenges as opportunities for growth. It’s not easy. I can think of at least a dozen recent examples where pushing through the fear or trial made me grow. Having a growth mindset is crucial. The recording of the self-critic and perfectionist in my head sometimes is overwhelmingly loud. I must quiet this voice.
Nutrients: Soil supplies nutrients to the plant and holds the nutrients that we add in the form of fertilizer. If I were to leave my professional growth to the decision of schools, I would not grow. I’d be stagnant, caught in a trap of mediocrity, and floundering to reach my potential because of the culture of compliance and complacency. Fortunately, I’ve had a love of books and learning all of my life. I’ve kept myself moving forward. But, being connected to other educators has accelerated my learning and motivated me to stretch in ways previously unimaginable. Not only have I read enlightening books to challenge my thinking, but I have also connected and built friendships with many of the authors. I look forward to more edcamps, books, Twitter chats, webinars, and Voxer discussions. I cannot imagine my life without these nutrients.
Water: The spaces between the soil particles also contain water that moves upward through the plant. Water carries essential nutrients to the plant; helps to maintain cell size so that the leaves don’t wilt, and is a raw material for the process known as photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is using energy from sunlight to chemically change air (carbon dioxide) and water into sugar (food) for the plant. The waste product of photosynthesis is oxygen. Water is essential for life. The minerals and microbes without water will not give life to a plant. What gives me life? Relationships. Faith. Hope. I’m reminded of the quote by Marianne Williamson. I believe that we are born with divine gifts and talents. My goal is to find my voice and help others find theirs. It’s the 8th Habit according to Stephen R. Covey.
Growth is a small word with a lot of potential impact. This year, I’ll focus on the soil preparation- the Law of the Harvest. Water, fertile soil, time, and consistency will prepare me for the opportunities that lie ahead. Great happenings are yet to come and many doors are waiting to be opened. I feel it inside of myself. It’s frightening and exhilarating at the same time. It’s my destiny.
More about soil can be found here.