Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Not Un-familiar Metaphor

I've been Xtreme gardening lately. After about three years of benign neglect (courtesy of little boys who need close supervision outside), I've been able to turn my attention back to massive prairie weeds and runaway ferns. Cathartic, if exhausting.

The neglect was not completely without engagement. I've been watching--sun patterns, aggressiveness of certain perennials, wet and dry spots. So even though my garden is a bit scraggly, I feel pretty aware of what's going on--what and what not to introduce. Some of this knowledge just comes from waiting and observation, some from internet research, some from talking to other gardeners. I'm not a Master by any means, but I know what I know.

I am struck by the similarity of gardening to teaching. No, I'm not going to draw a parallel between nurturing and mentoring or guiding immature seedlings or creating something beautiful from dirt. I've been teaching about as long as I've been seriously gardening (that'd be seven years) and, though I still feel pretty immature myself, I'm starting to get a sense of what makes me better at each discipline.

That would be experience. Not more trainings, more classes, more workshops, or more instruction. Sure, all that helps and gives you more information to work with (see the discussion at Linda S's house). But what I think I really pushes a teacher/gardener to the next level is actually doing the work itself. Having to be there in the moment and make choices on the fly, instead of endlessly discussing the options.

And then there's the peripheral knowledge that just comes with life experience--things picked up along the way that are relevant eventually. In fact, that's what I love about using the blog to figure out my yoga; often these connections don't become obvious until I'm thinking about them while writing. Which eventually leads back to the classroom. Or the dirt (so that's why you prune lilacs early).

Of course, useful life experience is impossible to quantify. How do you make an exit test? What does it certify? You certainly can't design a new revenue stream around it. But I guess, to me, it is the most useful instruction of all. It's why I prefer older teachers, especially in yoga (prejudiced, I know, but that's what works for me). Experience gives you a framework to understand all the subsequent training and makes all the information that much more relevant.

Get out. Dig in. Feet first. Just Do. Then you can step back and think, but first, Get Dirty.