Time is one of those precious commodities that we never seem to have enough of. There are so many demands on our time—work and family, the business of maintaining homes and cars and health and beauty. And then there are all those things we want to do: play and make and explore and learn.
We’re often impatient, wanting to see the fruits of our labor immediately, especially as teachers. We want to see our students grasp new concepts and show us they are learning. We often forget that learning is not fast and often follows a zig-zaggy trajectory rather than that even slope of progression that seems to be the meme for learning.
Yesterday, Judy shared this short, eloquent piece from Ralph Fletcher in his book Mentor Author, Mentor Texts: Short Texts, Craft Notes, and Practical Classroom Uses, who writes about his experience spending a day with eighty-year-old doctor.
We worked together planting baby trees in New Hampshire. The saplings were little bitty things, no more than six or eight inches tall.
“It’ll take twenty years before they’re even close to maturity,” he admitted with a wry smile. “Guess I won’t be around to see it.”
I was struck by the quiet heroism of this act, planting trees that would never bring him shade. As writing teachers, we do the same thing. It won’t happen today. It may not even happen this year, or next. But you can count on it: one day our young writers will blossom, even if we’re not there when it happens. Except I actually think we will be there, buried deep inside them.
I think this is true—when we are being the best teachers we can with student learning at the center of our practice—but I also think that some of our young writers “die on the vine” at school, from lack of water, sun, and nutrients necessary for growth.
And I’m also remembering my beautiful lavender plant from my front yard that got relegated to the wilds of the backyard during our early spring plumbing disaster—a place where “out of sight, out of mind” meant a lack of watering and near death. And yet, we didn’t discard it, assume that it had died. Instead…as we became more mindful and intentional about caring for it and nurturing it (and with strategic placement where it gets some water from the automatic lawn sprinklers), it is beginning to come back.
We can do that for our students too. Instead of feeling bad for not being the best possible teacher for the students who came before, we can work to nurture the learners we have before us. We can keep learning ourselves and share that learning with these young people in our care. Time will always be a challenge…for fitting in our own learning and for uncovering evidence of our students’ learning.
And then I think of myself as a writer. How often do the demands of work and life suck up time necessary for writing and thinking and dreaming…the lifeblood of composition. I’m working to find ways to be more intentional about my writing life; creating strategic ways to find spaces for writing and thinking and dreaming.
What do you do to nurture the young writers in your life? How do you nurture your own writerly life?