Are You a Seed Planter?
As teachers and coaches, we are gardeners planting seeds for success. We don't always get to see the fruits of our labor. I'm grateful to the students who come back and share that they gained something of value from the short 10 months in our classroom. The following is about a young man who came to share with me:
It was a beautiful October day about 18 years ago when a former student came to visit. Compared the third graders I was engaged with at the time, he looked like a giant at 6'2". It didn't take long to recognize this young man who was about to enter his junior year of high school. He had been a student in another class who had a lot of potential, but was not being successful with the demands of the third grade. I was asked to help with his executive skills and his time management.
We will call him George. It's a safe name, since I have never, in my 47 years in the classroom, taught a George. I worked with him for a year and made some progress. He was an exceptionally bright boy who was in a power struggle with any and all adults, including me. The only way I was able to get any results with him was to call his bluff and question whether he really could learn to manage his responsibilities.
I could tell he couldn't believe his ears when I said, "I have heard your mother say, 'He is incapable of managing himself. Every time I give him suggestions, they don't work. I don't know how you are going to get him to do anything to change things.' Is she right? Or am I right? Because I know, if you decide to use the strategies I share, you can be successful. I think you just have to show her she is wrong and I am right. What I am going to ask you to do is one simple thing; change your focus. This will be a challenge for you, because your brain is not naturally wired to automatically do what needs to be done. Learning to focus on one uninteresting thing at a time, will challenge you in a way you haven't been challenged before, but I believe, with a little effort a few minutes a day, you can train your brain to do so. Eventually, the strategies I share with you will become automatic. I am not connected to your results. Personally, I don't care if you succeed or not. (This statement shocked him, because I was emotionally connected to the outcome). That is solely up to you. I do know the strategies work if you decide to do them."
No one had told him they didn’t care if he was successful. His joy was in disappointing people who thought he was awesome. The problem was, he didn’t feel as great as everyone told him he was. This is a challenge for many bright students who think bright means easy.
He experienced moderate success that changed his mother's mind about his ability. He would lapse back into his old patterns, but would recover. His success was marginal, but was considered a miracle by his parents’ standard.
He had a specific reason for visiting me that October day. "I wanted to let you know that those seeds you planted eight years ago have finally sprouted. I am now a full grown tree. The strategies I resisted back in third grade are now the reason I am killing it in high school. I'm hoping to go to MIT. I just wanted to thank you for not giving up on me, like most teachers did."
(He did end up at MIT and is now at Stanford working on a PH.D.
I never thought about being a farmer, but I now see myself planting seeds of success on a daily basis. I am confident that they will sprout and grow to support my former students when they are needed.
How have you planted seeds? I would love to hear your stories. Please comment below, so we can learn from each other.