Nurturing, tending, growing, planting, feeding, caring: there are many gardening metaphors at work in teaching. That does not mean teachers are all the same sort of gardener. Some of us have small plots we plant near the house so we do not have to venture too far from home. Some of us plant huge acres of land. Some specialize in one crop; others plant a veritable banquet.
So we plant the seeds. But we are not done. The seeds must be nourished and the plant watched carefully as it sends out its first stems and shoots and leaves. Day after day we continue to work: some plants needs a little more encouragement than others. I had a houseplant (this was before Scout who considers anything green to be HIS garden) that loved to be moved from one end of the bookcase to another. College Girl still has a cactus that leans like the Tower of Pisa. It is in his (she has named it Carl Cactus) nature to lean. No matter how often we try to train Carl to grow upright, he resists. And perhaps it is this allusion that works when it comes to talking about the difference between being an examiner and a nurturer: we know that not all seeds will yield the same plants, that not all plants will grow to be the same height and width, etc. We know there will be variety, and that is something we actually value. So it is with kids. They all need care and nourishment, but not all of them will need the exact SAME care and nourishment. We do not expect them to be the same. But those outside of the classroom who call for performance as the means to measure teacher effectiveness do not see the variation (and do you not wonder what kind of blinders they must be wearing?). They expect kids to come in one door (and they see them as tabula rasa when they do) and exit the other door at the end of their time in school like little cutout widgets that have been pressed from the same mold, one indistinguishable from the other.
My BH took a photo of me and Donalyn and Karin and Katherine at a dinner in Boston. Donalyn and I are obviously engaged in a deep discussion (hands waving, mouths flapping, faces animated) while Karin and Katherine listened to BH and actually looked up to the camera. This snapshot encapsulates this post. Not all kids are in the same place at the same time. Nor should they be. We need to allow for the variation. Perhaps THAT is the essence of being a nurturer?