Not long ago I went out for dinner and drinks in SE Portland with a few friends who had been traveling the world for the last year (don’t get me started on how jealous I was). After hearing a bit about their travels through South America and Southeast Asia and their plans for life back in the states, they asked me how life was going for me in the house I rent with two friends in St. Johns.
I told them that the garden was looking good (one housemate of mine is in charge of planting that) and that we were getting some trees from a local nursery (the other housemate has been potting and planting those). That response prompted the question, “So Doug, what are you planting?”
I paused for a second, and then said “I’m planting ideas in the minds of others and watching to see what those ideas grow into!” I meant it mostly as a joke, and it got a laugh, but my answer came to mind again the next day on a walk, and I realized how accurately it describes what I’m trying to do with my life.
That’s the role of a teacher, after all, planting ideas in the minds of students, nurturing them just long enough to get them started, and then walking away to let them continue growing on their own. And as in gardening, it’s much more about setting up the space for growth to occur than it is about jamming things through to force growth to occur. The seed knows what to do. Just provide the right conditions and it will do just fine.
Teaching is no different – provide the right conditions for students to explore and be engaged, and the rest will happen naturally. We are wired to learn, but only when our senses are engaged.
Keep that in mind as you create learning activities for yourself to help you develop whatever skill you’re working to master. Spend some time thinking about the types of things that really engage your senses, and then try to incorporate those things into your learning activities. You might be surprised at how easy and enjoyable the learning process is when you set up the right conditions, and how quickly your skills grow as a result.
I also want you to understand that when you share your learning experiences in a public space, you are also planting seeds in the minds of all of those who follow your work. When you share your process, not just the final product, you will be fulfilling the role not just of student, but of teacher as well.
So as you work to create the conditions that engage your senses, be sure to share with others what you are doing. You never know where your ideas will land, and what they might grow into.
Photo Credit: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center