I cried today while I was at work. Very unprofessional of me, I know.
Today was planting day at the school where I am the new garden club advisor. Recently, I’ve spent 10-12 hours prepping the garden beds for planting. Over the weekend, I purchased the plants. I made sign up sheets for the teachers and today about 150 students were scheduled, class by class, to come outside and plant an annual in the school garden. Two nights ago, my husband helped me till it up. Last night I went to put out plant markers for a search and find with some of the more unusual named plants, count shovels to make sure I had enough, and generally check to see if we were ready. By the time I sat down last night it was 9:30. I had 16,000 steps on my FitBit. I had worked. Hard.
By 6 a.m. this morning, my husband was taking the plants over to the school, about 20 minutes away, to drop them off for me. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. and left at 3:15 p.m.. I was in the garden all day and it wasn’t all rosy, believe me.
My problem started before today. The “old” garden manager is still very much involved with the garden beds I was hired to care for last fall. She’s said I am doing a good job but then adds many suggestions about what or how things should be done, as well as telling me that I should ask permission if I need to replace a plant. Until late last week, I was able to ignore these suggestions. But, as the planting dates loomed closer, I could feel my annoyance building. I let a couple of emails from her go unanswered, hoping to give off the impression that I knew what I was doing and did not need guidance. After all, for each of the last 14 month’s of May, I planted with 30 or more school aged children in a school garden close to my house – at the school my boys had attended as elementary students.
But since the end of last week, I felt my intensity grow. I was super focused on doing a good job and doing it right, but a couple of thoughts kept floating to the surface. The predominate theme was that this job entails too much gardening and not enough teaching for me. I am a teacher first and gardener second – the garden is the vehicle in which my lessons ride.
So, when I planned today’s planting session, I gave a mini-lesson on annual plant life cycles, seeds, and a how-to demo. This took 10 minutes. Planting took 10 minutes (each child only planted one plant). And, I also constructed a search and find for the students to do after their planting was done to introduce them to the plants in the garden bed. One of my educational goals for this garden is to connect the students to it. They see it, walk by it, or even through it, but do not know about it. It is part of their “place”, their school, where they spend a majority of their waking hours. They should know about it. This was a simple exercise to learn plant names and where they are in the school gardens. One of my strengths is being super organized, so fortunately, this plan worked well all day today.
But, shortly after I arrived, the old garden manager came outside. I am not sure what she was doing there. Perhaps volunteering in her grandson’s classroom. I do not know. I was still prepping for the first class which involved moving plants around, marking spots to dig, placing shovels near the plants, etc.. I was busy. I had gotten the water spigot key from the custodian and needed to fill water buckets. She complimented me on my plant choices. Then, she asked if they were going in the main garden bed, I said that they were. Well, then I was told that “for future reference” that is the “seed” bed because second grade studies seeds. They always just “seeded” that bed in the past. Well, I said, this year will be different. We’ll have some instant color and each student will get to put a plant in the ground. This conversation and others like it was what I was afraid of because it is pretty much how the emails have gone. A compliment is followed by a zinger. The recognition of this pattern had caused me to stress about planting at school this week.
Truly, I was not looking forward to it for this very reason. I knew I would be told, “it wasn’t they way it had been done in the past.” You know, I was hired to do a job. No one told me it had to be done the way it had been done in the past. My emotions were close to the surface; I could feel it. I had been close to “spilling” over for a few days now. My family knew it. I knew it.
Well, the first class came out. I gave my mini-lesson. The old garden manager stayed and watched. I asked her to help and fill up some water buckets. I gave her the water key I had the forethought to get from the custodian. Our prior conversation had interrupted my prep time so I did not get the buckets filled. She asked if I had brought a hose over to the spigot. No, just the cans and the key, I replied.
In return, I got, “Well, that doesn’t work well here. You need a hose.”
You know, I lost it. I thought for a minute and then said, well – it will have to do. I am trying to do a good job and I am not you or the person that helped you in the garden. The garden will not be the same was it was when you managed it because we are different people. I never had a hose before and it always worked. UGH! This was in front of the kids!
We finished planting and she came over to apologize. Then, she went inside for a while but came back as I had a break for an hour. Despite saying I didn’t want to “get it to it” we did. I ended up crying. This is embarrassing. There was not anyone to hear us but still I didn’t want to cry. Damn! I knew it was going to happen. So, I cried. I cried as I told her this has not been an easy transition. I am a teacher first and a gardener second. There is too much gardening and not enough teaching with this role. The gardens are huge. They really need a full-time, dedicated GARDENER! That person is not me. I am a teacher! If there was any ever doubt in my mind before today, there is not now.
As I proceeded with my day, my intensity lessened and I was able to relax and enjoy the students. In part, this is because this person did not return to “help” – even though we parted amlicablly. I enthusiastically taught each group, enjoyed planting with them, enjoyed getting to know the teachers, and having both teachers and students get to know me. I was fine with the next group, 37 second graders, their teachers, and me. We did fine. My lesson plan and organization of the planting worked.
So, what happened here? Well, first off, my emotions have been close to the surface for a while. Since last month, I have been fighting for my garden club group again – just at a different school. I’m tired of fighting for my groups. Tired. I am only trying to enrich students and yet, I have to fight for the opportunity to do this. Paid or volunteer, I have to fight. It isn’t right and it is exhausting! Secondly, in part, I am grieving for my previous garden club group; this was a group of students I led for 13 years. I miss them. I miss the familiarity of the school, the teachers I know who appreciated me (and the few that didn’t), I miss it all. Planting with new students, however great they were, made me miss my old students. There is no denying that. Thirdly, May has been extremely busy. I have a senior in high school, a looming graduation (9 days), visiting family – some who have not been here in 5 years, finishing of two graduate school classes, and organizing the planting all the while I was working on cleaning up the garden. Not to mention things to do in my own yard!
I always try to look at things from another perspective. I told the person that brought me to tears earlier that I live down the road from the garden I used to manage and if I saw someone working in it, I would never stop and tell they what they should do or what I used to do. I resigned, much like this person resigned. I have no right to tell the person that takes over what to do. Yet, I was being told.
What do I do? Well, I can tell you what I think I should do. I can tell you what my husband wants me to do. But, that can wait. The other thing I have been thinking about is how I need to get my intensity under control. Not everyone understands intense people. I get that. But, I am one. I do not necessarily like that about myself. It has its advantages, but probably more disadvantages. I will tell you this, I am thinking of ways I can enjoy life more, be LESS intense, and more relaxed. And, yet, I will also tell you that having students who just met me today and left school waving, calling me by name, and telling me planting was fun was the highlight of my day.
But, I also know that life is much too short to be crying in a school garden at ten o’clock in the morning, with a person I barely know. It just isn’t something that needs to happen. And, I’m not quite sure a hug from a kindergartener or even a whole line of them makes up for that.