Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed.
A former boss once said to me that I planted seeds. The implication, I think, was mostly positive, indicating that I have a lot of great ideas. But it was also a little bit about my lack of seeing those seeds to their full growth. If anyone has seen my yard and/or indoor plants, you might understand that this is a bad metaphor for me. Most of my plants are sad looking things, barely surviving their poor caretaking.
But it’s true that most of what I do is give out ideas, get people started and then leave them to finish things up, to grow in whatever way they want. With my students, I’m providing a lot more support. I continue to give them information, push them, encourage them, etc. But still, there’s no way of knowing if what I’ve said or done will effect them five years from now. Having contacts at my former job, I know some of the things I floated as ideas as early as 10 years ago are now coming to fruition. Some things I started are still flourishing, which is heartening to see. I can only hope that some of my current students have learned something in my class that helps them or guides them ten years from now.
At my current job, people often credit me for giving them the idea to do something, which is also flattering. Many of my ideas come from Twitter or blogs I read. Because I’m in a small school, I know what my colleagues are doing and what they might need. I just happen to be at the right place at the right time (online). For my own teaching, though, I’m a bit on my own. Not that many CS teachers tweet or blog. Which I think is weird. I’m grateful for those that do. I love sharing ideas with them and stealing the good ones I see (:)). I think, though, of my CS teaching as planting seeds, primarily because there’s so much to Computer Science, I’m constantly aware of how much I’m *not* teaching. There’s just no way to cover it all in high school.
I am lucky, however, in that I get to have students over the course of several years and often, I get to have them in multiple contexts, class, clubs, in other social situations. I really get to know them as people. That allows me to cultivate the seeds I’ve planted more thoroughly, and better. And that’s what I think about most often. I want to plant more seeds earlier. I want to nurture them more. And my challenge right now is, how.