I had a piece published in the NY Times yesterday about teacher evaluation and the experience of being rated “unsatisfactory.” It was exciting to get a piece in the Times, but it was especially exciting that I got to work an ecological metaphor, about teachers “planting seeds,” into the article. Even more exciting was that I got to mention one of my favorite teachers, Ms. Leonard, in the article.
I took Ms. Leonard’s Creative Writing class twice, and then did an independent study with her my senior year of high school. In the article, I describe the impact Ms. Leonard had on me as both a person and a writer:
“I’m thinking about Ms. Leonard, the English teacher who repeatedly instructed me to ‘write what you know,’ a lesson I’ve only recently begun to understand. She wasn’t just teaching me about writing, by the way, but about being attentive to the details of my daily existence. It wasn’t Ms. Leonard’s fault that 15-year-old me couldn’t process this lesson completely. She was planting seeds that wouldn’t bear fruit in the short term.”
This idea of teachers planting seeds is a powerful one to me. First of all, it reflects the fact that learning is a mysterious process. A new idea or concept can lie dormant for a very long time, creating the appearance of barren intellectual ground. Then, suddenly, a green shoot emerges and the student has learned something. It took me years to understand Ms. Leonard’s lessons, but that’s how learning works.
So, think back on the different teachers you had. Did any of them plant seeds that took a long time to blossom? What did they teach you?