Last Wednesday, I spent 8 hours ruminating over whether I wanted to support an outside, non-profit gardening group get involved in “assisting” my efforts at the school where I currently work as Garden Club Advisor. Eight hours. It was too much.
A proposal was brought forward to the principal and PTO about bringing in this group. Come to find out, it was not known to the PTO that they would need to pay for the services this group would render, including the development of lessons, teaching the lessons, and place based learning in the school gardens. I was very confused. This is exactly what I had been hired to do AND what I had talked recently to the principal and staff about – even including a handout on Place Based Learning. Why was this other group being considered? In my estimation, it was because they were involved, and had been successfully providing services, to three other elementary schools in this same district over the last six years. A parent had heard about it and wanted the same for their child at the school where I was based. But, this child is not a member of the newly formed garden club that I led….so why the interest in this other group?
New clubs need time to become known and “get off the ground.” This other group should know that, if they know anything. At the same time this was happening, I was writing my final assignment for one of grad courses. In a reference I used for that paper on conducting needs assessments for community groups, it clearly stated that if a group similar to yours already exists, reconsideration should take place. But, that didn’t happen. Just the opposite, in fact. The group persisted, scheduling a presentation before the PTO, to “sell” their product.
So, between Wednesday and Saturday last week a flurry of emails were sent back and forth discussing this group’s potential involvement, the impact they might have, whether I wanted to work with them, and the fact I was already being paid to do what they were offering. To put it in a nutshell, their proposition was declined before it got to the point of presenting to PTO, mainly because of my angst of having to work with a group I did not know. I already had lessons, already taught those lessons & found them successful with prior students, and was being paid to provide the lessons. I really did not need have their involvement or “their” lessons. It felt nice to have my thoughts and feelings considered and then, actually be supported by an action that declined their proposal.
So, by Friday, I was clocking more hours in the school gardens, getting it cleaned up for spring and scheduling planting times for over 460 students in the upcoming last three weeks of school. In addition, I was in contact with a business that has a “working relationship” with this school to provide regularly occurring volunteers. I agreed, in April, to take 10-15 of their volunteers to help me in the gardens. I followed up on that last week as well.
But, Monday and Tuesday, I received emails from each of the two women who managed these gardens in the past. Both complimented my work, but both also told me things they “thought” I should be doing in the garden. I was okay to a certain extent with that as I know it is hard to give something up, something one has been doing for years. But, I have at least as much knowledge base as a gardener as they do and much of what was suggested were things I knew needed to be done but had not had time to do so as of yet. My lack of time to spend on doing some of these things was largely due to spending time instead on communicating my feelings about the involvement this other group. Neither of these women knew about that. They no longer worked for the school.
When I got to the school yesterday, for our garden club meeting, one of the women was there. She had done some weeding but wanted to “remind” me that the soil needed to be tilled and there was a rota-tiller in the shed. Yes, I told her I knew about that. My husband would do the tilling when I asked him. Then, after entering the building, I found my teaching “space” had been “shared” with another club – game club. After some initial shock and feeling of displacement, this turned out to be fine. The parents that ran game club were gracious and shared their snack food – pizza, juice boxes, and candy, with out group! We proceeded out to the the gardens after 20 minutes, anyway. I think the art teacher, whose room we use, was more upset than I about this conflicted scheduling!
However, after I got home, I received another email from the woman that I saw at school and spoke to me about the tilling. She was sharing observations with me about the gardens, and complimented my efforts. However, the emails included telling me to replant this or that, and to get permission FROM THEM, if something needed replacing in the gardens. Therefore, I am wondering if the decision I made about not allowing this other group to get involved was the right one. It seems I am right back at where I was two years ago, just at a different school. Again, I am fighting for my group, fighting for space, fighting for control over what I teach and how I teach it.
Only time will tell about my decision. I need to finish the work I set in motion and go from there.