Episode 77 Teach like a gardener

Show Notes

Key Point #1: Know your seeds

  • Most plants start as seeds, though they can also grow from roots or cuttings.
  • Each seed is unique
    • Size
    • Colour
    • Depth of planting
  • Children in our classrooms are like seeds. They are unique and will only thrive when given the right conditions.
  • In order to give them the right conditions, you must know them. The more you know about them the better you can match them with the conditions they need to thrive.

Key Point #2: Know the conditions for thriving

  • In the garden there are lots of different plants that thrive in different conditions.
    • Hot and humid conditions for your more tropical plants such as mangoes
    • Wet conditions for bananas
    • Sunny and hot conditions for citrus
    • Shady conditions for avocados and coffee plants
  • Our schools all have different conditions as well. And your classroom needs to provide the ideal conditions for your students

Key Point #3: All Plants need…

  • Sun
  • Water
  • Nutrients¬†
  • Our students also have things in common:
    • Need to be safe
    • Need to be known
    • Cared for and loved
  • When it comes to learning they also need:
    • The pre-requisites for the new knowledge
    • Understand the basics BEFORE going onto deeper thinking
    • Knowledge of where they are going and feedback on how they are going
    • Must know why they are learning this!

Key Point #4: Matching plants and conditions

  • How this all happens varies from plant to plant
  • Some need acidic soil, others need basic. Some need dry soil while others need it wet.
  • Your students all need different levels of focus and attention
  • They need different amounts of feedback and guidance
  • They might thrive better with more autonomy or others with less
  • Some students may prefer to watch a video, discuss the topic with a friend or read a book
  • They might thrive more by writing an essay, solving a problem, or building a car

Summarise key points

  • Students are biological. They respond differently to specific situations. It is our job as teachers to identify what they need going forward and what will hinder them.
  • This week, take a moment to ask all your students 2 questions:
    1. What did I do this week that helped you learn something?
    2. What did I do this week that made learning difficult for you?


Dan: (00:00)
Hi, and welcome to episode 77 of the effective teaching podcast. It feels like it has been ages. Since I released an episode, I’ve been moving house, building chicken coops, and a goat pen, and just gave myself already. And I’m finally back into doing some kind of normalcy with life. And today our episode, we’re going to be looking at how to teach like a farmer. And basically what I’m doing here is connecting the idea of teaching with gardening. And we’re going to talk a little bit about what that means. I first came across this when I was reading a book by Sir Ken Robinson. And so today we’re going to explore a bit more about what it means to think about yourself more as a gardener, rather than as a teacher, but we’ll see how they both relate nice and easily. Well, the first step to gardening is to really make sure you know, your seeds.

Dan: (00:51)
Okay? So most seeds produce plants, right? Uh, there are some plants that grow from cuttings and stuff as well, but we aren’t talking about it as seeds, just for the sake of simplicity. Now, when it comes to seeds, right? All of them are unique. We have seeds that are different sizes. They are all different colors and all of them need different depths of planting and children in our classroom are very much like seeds. They are unique and will only thrive when they’re given the right conditions. And in order to give them those right conditions, you must really know your students. Well, the more you know about them, the better that you can match them with the conditions that they need to thrive. That doesn’t mean that all the seeds won’t grow, a lot of seeds will grow in lots of different conditions, but they will thrive and do their best in specific conditions that are best suited for them.

Dan: (01:44)
So when it comes to knowing the conditions for thriving in the garden, there’s lots of different plants that thrive in lots of different conditions, right? There’s those like hot and humid conditions for your tropical plants like mangoes bananas, love it to be really, really wet at their roots. You might want some sunny and hot conditions for your citrus trees. There’s some shady conditions, whether it’s a bit cooler for things like avocados and coffee plants, and our schools are very similar to this. You’re at, we have different conditions throughout our schools and each classroom is really going to be its own condition because each teacher runs their classroom differently. And your classroom needs to provide the ideal conditions for your students. That will mean that in your classroom, you need to adapt things specifically for your students who are in your classroom. Now, all plants need three things in common.

Dan: (02:37)
And I think all students need some things in common as well. So all plants need, yeah, they all need sun of some kind they’ll need water or some kind. And they need nutrients of some kind that our students also have things that they need. So they need to be safe. They need to be known and they need to be cared for and loved. But those kinds of things, looking after the students’ wellbeing is way more important for their learning than people often think about. So make sure that your classroom is one that’s safe. Make sure that you know your students individually and make sure that you actually care for them and provide them with some kind of love. Now, when it comes to learning, students are also going to need to know things like the prerequisites, right? If you’re about to give them new knowledge, often that builds on something that you are hoping they’ve already learned.

Dan: (03:25)
So you need to know whether or not they’ve got that. Pre-knowledge those prerequisites for what they’re learning in your classroom. It also is about understanding the basics before you then ask them to do some deeper thinking, okay? Make sure your students have grasped the general aspects of the content, the key aspects that are needed to then transfer into some deeper thinking, some applications, and critical thinking. You need to make sure you progress them through that. And Bloom’s taxonomy can be really helpful for that. You also need to make sure your students have knowledge of where they’re going and what it looks like when they get there. And they also need some feedback about how they’re going in terms of, you know, this is where they were. This is where they are. Now. This is where we’re getting to, they’ve made progress. And these are the next steps that they need.

Dan: (04:09)
Students need that all students need that. And all students also need to know why they’re learning what you’re giving them. Can I say in your classroom, whenever you’re learning something, whenever you’re introducing a new topic or a new concept, you need to tell your students why it’s important for them to learn this and not why in the sense of all, there’s going to be an exam or it’s in your assessment tasks. I want to why that actually connects with life. Tell them why it’s important that they learn this because of something that’s coming up in their life, right in their future. As they leave school, whether it’s at school, maybe it applies to their soccer games. Maybe it applies to their Minecraft world. Whatever you can think of, make some clear connections for them as to why what they’re learning is really important. Now, of course, the most important thing for you to do as a gardener or as a teacher is to match your plants or your students with the right conditions.

Dan: (05:00)
Okay? So how this all happens, varies from plant to plant. Some plants really need some acidic soil. Others needed to be basic. Some need dry soil or others would need really wet soil. They’re all different. And your students are different as well. They have different… They’re going to need different levels of focus and different levels of attention from you. So they might need different amounts of feedback and guidance. You’ll have students who have different abilities to thrive when they’re given more autonomy or when they’re given less, okay, you might have students that require less autonomy and just want to be told what to do. Okay? And that those students, you can give them quite detailed instructions to follow for their success. Whereas others want to be left alone to be able to make their own decisions. And they will thrive better when they’re given that some students may even prefer to watch a video, to discuss the topic, maybe with a friend or to read about it in a book, and they might thrive more by writing an essay, or they might thrive more by solving a problem or by building a car, right?

Dan: (06:02)
Lots of different ways that you can allow your students to thrive. And by getting to know them, you’re setting yourself up well, to be able to give them the conditions that they need so that they thrive to their maximum. You see because students they’re biological, we need to. So Ken Robinson in his book was comparing the idea of education as this old school system where you’re building cars or you’re building any kind of machinery and things are all systematic. Everyone gets exactly the same thing. And you produce the same thing at the end, but he says, the students are not mechanical. They’re biological. They respond differently to different situations. They need to be cared for. They need the sun, they need water. They need nutrients. And students need this too because they are biological. They will respond to different situations differently. Okay. And it’s our job as teachers to identify what they need going forward and what will actually hinder them.

Dan: (07:02)
And so this week, I want you to just take a moment and ask the students two questions. These are two questions that I ask my students every week. And I want to ask, get you to start asking them regularly as well. And let’s start this week. I want you to ask them these two questions. Number one, what did I do this week that helped you to learn something? So just get the students to say, when you came and you explained this, it really was helpful. Or when you allowed me to choose blah, blah, blah. That was very helpful. Okay. So what did I do this week that helped you to learn something? That’s question number one, question. Number two is what did I do this week that made learning difficult for you? Okay. Because it’s going to be things that you’ve done as a teacher.

Dan: (07:45)
And I know there were things that I did as a teacher that students really didn’t like. I remember I had one student in my year, 12 class who really hated the autonomy aspect. And I needed to really give her more clear instructions about what to do step by step. And it wasn’t that she couldn’t do things on her own. She just really wanted to make sure that she was following a kind of a guided system to make sure that she was covering everything she needed to cover and that she was preparing herself as best as she could for what she needed to know. But there were other students in my class who were loving the fact that they got lots of autonomy and choice. And so it was good to get that feedback. And then for me to adapt things, to give the conditions that best enabled those students to thrive, even though they were different conditions.

Dan: (08:29)
And so I can set my classroom up to have different conditions for different plants or different students so that they grow and thrive in my environment that I’m providing well, that’s it for this week. I am so excited to be back and to be doing this again. It’s been so long, just moving around, carrying heavy boxes upstairs. If you enjoyed this podcast, please make sure that you subscribe. If you want the show notes or you want to get the transcript, please head over to teacherspd.net/77, and you will find everything that you need there. And I hope that you will come back and join me for our next episode. Well, I’ll be looking at how to create performance-based assessment tasks. I’ll see you there.

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