I am a gardener and a high school English teacher. Recently, I was having conversation about gardening, and I realized a fundamental difference that I had with other gardeners. When I garden, I plant perennials in abundance and care for them until they bloom. My philosophy about gardening, however, differs in this way: I plant so that I can watch the blossoms come, but once I have planted the garden, I just let it grow. I am not fussy about weeding or ensuring the plants stay within the edges of my garden. I am careful when I prepare and plant bulbs and other perennials, but I love to watch what happens afterwards, and I do not try to disturb most weeds as they grow.
I approach teaching in much the same manner; I plant the seeds, but am excited to see what comes from it. Every once in a while, a weed may grow, but who among us can say that weeds are ugly? Anyone who has received a bouquet of dandelions from a child knows this to be a falsehood. If I pluck the seedling of an unknown plant, I may have just eliminated something new, exotic, and beautiful. Homogeny is boring. I do not want to waste my best soil on grass, and though a nice lawn is lovely, flower gardens are so much more than a place than must be mown, fertilized, and coated with chemicals. A garden holds the ultimate in possibilities, among them the surprise of something new that I did not think I planted.
This I believe: the natural order of life and growth is to experience the beauty of differences. This may be a volunteer lady slipper or a child who may not do well on standardized tests, but is gifted in music. If every child were like a lawn or a well-manicured garden, neither my students nor I would experience the glory of new discovery, or of finding something old that is beautiful. If I attempt to mold children to fit into certain categories, I am doing a disservice to the world by discounting nature’s gifts.
Every child, like very plant, has a place in this world. Just because a student cannot identify a metaphor does not mean that s/he is incapable of producing beautiful writing. Just as I may not be able to identify a plant, sometimes I must just trust that nature will provide beauty, whether I recognize it initially or not. The joy is in planting the seeds and just watching what happens when I leave them alone. Frequently, surprises are more extraordinary than what I had originally planned.