All year, I have tried to absorb everything that comes my way and shield students from negativity. But there is a danger to this, as I see the path to burnout and bitterness winding off to one side. If I am just absorbing everything, what is happening to it? Will I become filled with a toxic sludge of worry, self-doubt, and negativity? Is this how teachers who are filled with passion turn into the people that you don't want to sit with in the faculty room?
I decided that I will become a rain garden.
Rain gardens are special gardens, planted under downspouts or in other areas with lots of storm water. Rain gardens help to reduce pollution, because they absorb water and keep it from running off into streams. Rain gardens are even home to bacteria that break down pollutants. (See this article for more)
Plus they do it all with flowers. In so doing, rain gardens become habitats for many different kinds of animals.
It's easy to see the parallels. Rain gardens absorb storm water and pollutants, but are not themselves corrupted by these things--instead, they turn these negatives into something good. And that is my goal--to always turn the negative thinking and the myriad little problems that come my way into something good and meaningful. And I want to create a classroom habitat for my students that fits who they are.
If you are feeling overwhelmed at this time of year, maybe you, too, will find it comforting to imagine yourself as a rain garden. The frustrations and the worries will still be there, but you will find a way to turn them into a habitat for learning.