Teaching In The Mud Garden

Having just left a weekly faculty meeting during which absolutely nothing was accomplished, I was feeling woefully uninspired as I fought my way back to my classroom; I felt much like a salmon swimming upstream through the throngs of teenagers and tweenagers loitering in the halls.

Five minutes before homeroom, my room was mysteriously and mercifully devoid of students, leaving me a few moments to regroup before the day began. Then I saw it. I shall teach / in a mud garden / under rhythm was the poem that awaited me on the magnetic poetry board in my classroom. I read it several times to be sure that my eyes were not deceiving me.

Several thoughts raced through my mind at once. Thought one: one of my apathetic, disaffected students had actually written something -- something intriguing and somewhat clever to boot! Thought two: One of my students went behind my desk to retrieve the poetry board that I used during class but that remained hidden (though apparently not well hidden). Thought three: what does this mean?! I sped through the motions of homeroom, taking attendance and lunch orders and reading the daily announcements.

I was delighted to have first period free to uncover the meaning of this piece of anonymous poem. I perseverated over each and every detail and possible nuance.

I shall teach...well, yes, I shall. No mystery there. Under rhythm... well, this student was on to something. Teaching does have its own rhythm and each teacher has his or her own. In a mud garden...is that what this student considered school? We weren't a rural school and had neither mud nor a garden. I was stumped. Mud garden...mud garden...mud garden.

And then I realized it. Middle school is exactly that: a mud garden! A garden has tremendous potential but takes a great deal of cultivation characterized by patience, nurturing, care and gentleness. If given all of these nutrients, the garden will grow and flourish into something lovely and prosperous from an itty bitty seed. Neglecting one's garden can turn it to mud and make the garden lie fallow. Like a garden, middle schoolers require care and love and nurturing so that they don't turn to mud.

The door to my classroom swung open and my students began to pour in chatting about the science test through which they'd just suffered. They took their seats and got settled, borrowing pencils from one another and searching for their homework assignments. "Good morning, " I began. "Who can tell me what a metaphor is?"

Copyright 2005 Daniella Garran