In October, I accepted a position as a Garden Club Advisor for an internationally themed elementary school in our area. It is a well-known, well-respected school of choice, locally. I do not want to say I was a shoe-in for the position, but I interviewed offering 13 years of experience of leading a garden club for an elementary school in my resident school district. Not only did I lead the club, I founded it in the fall of 2004 after completing my Master Gardener Volunteer Level One Training. What was supposed to be a way for me to obtain my volunteer hours, actually turned out to be my calling! I am meant to teach children, this I know. I have come to learn that I want most to teach them about our environment. Environmental education allows interdisciplinary lessons to be woven through all subject areas. It is a great fit for me, and hopefully, a new set of students, too!
After serving over 500 youth in my resident district, including my own three boys, and countless others that I developed relationships with during the last decade, I ended the group. Why, is not important for this post. Essentially, I needed to, so I did. It took a long time – actually years – to arrive at that decision. But, finally I was ready to leave. But, I knew I cold not go back to this school to visit, to hold my other group – a writer’s circle, or even to maintain the butterfly garden that I so lovingly created and maintained with students since 2006. I had to make a clean break.
Unexpectedly, this fall, I saw an advertised position, a paid position for a Garden Club Advisor at a neighboring school district. A larger school system with a larger garden. A new school with new students! I did not need long to think it over. I applied and was hired the day I interviewed.
Tonight, I held our fourth garden club meeting. I had four students. We planted bulbs – not the bulbs I used with my previous group – but different kinds. Not one bulb per student – but six. Forcing bulbs and teaching young children about bulbs as plant structures is one of my favorite lessons. I can firmly say that by the time we were done today, I think it was one of their favorite lessons, too!
Our group is jelling, I am happy to say! Yes, it is a small group. It is about 1/6th the size of my first garden club group at my previous school. Still, the students are engaged, good listeners, and curious about what we are learning. In addition, I am being paid! PAID! And, I am still love what I am doing!
I won’t lie. It is different. A new building. A New staff. The fourth administrator with whom I have worked. But, relationships take time. I have the time to build another club. It seemed this month was a turning point. I met with the principal on Monday to discuss my vision of the club for her school. Mostly, I want to share with the staff, parents, and students what my vision is – not only beautiful gardens but the gardens used to educate, instill pride, and a collaborative effort. We put some plans into place to help me communicate the vision. I want to get rid of any preconceived notions that might exist about my role. While the gardens are beautiful and will need maintaining, I am there for the students, first and foremost.
Our club meeting had a new comfort level. The students arrive knowing who I am, my expectations, and how the club meeting goes. I have gotten to know them, with the need for name tags long gone. They are a great bunch. We talked about flower bulbs. I was seated at a table with the students. We learned. We laughed. We planted some bulbs. We cleaned up as a group! Together. And then we played Garden Club Hangman which just means that our vocabulary words from the day’s lesson were used. New rules of play were accepted without question. Everyone was picked up on time at dismissal. It was a very satisfying meeting.
On the way home, I found myself smiling. Our club is starting to sprout! Roots have been established. The building is warm. We are growing. Together, our garden will grow.