“Inspired by MLK: How will you make the world a better place?”
This isn't anything special, nor is it any different from millennia of humans.
I do this for a few reasons. I like seeing plants grow. I like keeping heirloom varieties of vegetables alive in the world. It keeps me grounded, in a very literal sense-- there's something satisfying and humbling about coming to school the next day with a little bit of dirt under my fingernails.
My ancestors came to the United States in 1640, settling in central Virginia. Over the last four hundred years, they have gradually migrated all the way from central Virginia to central North Carolina. While most of them had other avocations, almost all of them have gardened. My roots run deep here, both in this red clay country and in the sense that it's both appropriate and desirable to see green shoots breaking soil.
The other reason I plant seeds is because the practice gives my life balance. I have the growing station pictured above sitting in my kitchen, and every time I walk in the room, the earthy smells remind me that there are other things beyond cinderblock classroom walls, things that are connected to places deep in the past. When the first true leaves pop out of the tomato plants, and that distinctive tomato plant smell remains on my fingers long after I’ve scooped and divided and transplanted, it reminds me that although the winter is dark and cold and longer than I'd like, the summer is coming, and coming soon.
Finding those reminders - that summer is coming - is the dead-of-winter task for me as a teacher, too. It’s easy to forget that my time with students is short and precious...especially when they refuse to do work, or throw something at a classmate, or ask the same question for the tenth time that I’ve just answered each of the previous nine times.
Trying to rush plants along is a fool’s errand. No matter how much fussing I’ve done over them, how much water, how intensely I shine my grow-lamps, the seeds are pretty much going to sprout when they feel like it.
I have to remember: teaching is a long-game. Like planting seeds, it’s sometimes hard to predict what will happen months later. My job, with seeds and with students, is to provide the most optimal conditions, and then get out of the way--with a little extra dirt under my fingernails.