Metaphor of School - Part V

01/03/17, 9:20 PM

Metaphor of School V –


We’ve paid quite a bit of attention to the metaphor of school in this blog.  While this will be last posting on this topic for a bit, it will certainly not be the final posting on this topic.


We have explored the following ideas – topics that relate to this issue of the metaphor of school.


School as factory
School as prison
School as gymnasium/academy
School as bottega/studio


And each one of them is unique, different, and appropriate only in certain circumstances.


Like the other metaphors, the concept of “school as garden” has some appealing and useful traits.  School is a place that is “tended,” and it is a place that students should use to “grow.” It has multiple benefits when the crops are fruitful.  A good school, like a good garden, requires attention both to the environment and to the good results of that attention.


Incidentally, the garden and the school need periods of rest. The garden needs its time to winter over, and the school needs its vacation.  In order to be effective, teachers need that time of rest as well; the word “sabbatical” is derived from the concept that crop land is left fallow every seven years, just as in many schools a teacher can take a sabbatical after seven years of employment.


Perhaps a short anecdote is in order. While in Los Angeles, it was sometimes part of my job to discipline students – and I happened on a unique discipline that had several positive ramifications.  Rather than give a detention or suspend students for some infractions which were really a minor lapse of adolescent judgement, I sometimes asked students to join me on Sunday for an exercise in gardening around the school.  There were several benefits.  My reasoning was that the student needed to be closer to the school, not distanced from the school – that the work of gardening could build pride in a task accomplished.  I’ve never really seen much sense in sending a student home for a day or two to sit about – as if the suspension was a reward in some regards for misguided behavior.


So sometimes together on a Sunday we planted and gardened.  Students did seem to enjoy the task – some of them had to be shown how to use a shovel, but all of them took some pride in the result, and we all shared in the idea that school could be made better by contributing to the environment of the school.

When I left Los Angeles, the school dedicated a garden to me – one of the things about which I can be most personally proud.  The plaque there contained a quote from Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, which read, “A teacher is a gardener in the garden of God, assigned to cultivate it and guard it from harm.”


Somehow, that metaphor of school as a garden works.  It implies effort, diligence, nurturing, experimentation, rest, rejuvenation, and a “flowering” of children. It implies guided interaction, and sometimes benign neglect.

For right now, that metaphor works.
It’s mid-October in Maine, and we had a pronounced frost last night.  Today, when it is a bit warmer, I’ll continue the work of turning the soil in the garden as winter approaches, but also thinking about next year’s planting.

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