The Seven Most Powerful Words in Education

It doesn’t matter whether you are approaching this article from a teacher, administrator or school supporter perspective. These words… “What can I do to help you?”… are powerful.

Many articles talk about how to shift culture or dynamics, I believe these 7 words are a great place to start. In utilizing this simple question, you demonstrate support, concern and most importantly, a willingness to listen and hear what the other person. Are you afraid of what you might hear? Then, all the more reason to start asking.

Be A Marigold: Essential Advice for the Returning Teacher

What do marigolds have to do with teaching and preparation for the year?

“Be A Marigold” is a corollary post to Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers by Jennifer Gonzalez. Gonzalez uses the nature of the marigold as a metaphor. Here’s a quick summary of the article in 95 words:

Marigolds are one of the best “companion” plants for gardens. Experienced gardeners utilize the marigold to help other plants nearby flourish and improve the overall health of the garden. The connection for new teachers is to seek out and surround yourself with veteran marigold teachers who will help you improve and thrive. In contrast, Gonzalez talks about the marigold’s anthesis – the walnut tree. The walnut mindset or walnut tree “…give off a toxic substance that can inhibit growth, wilt, and ultimately kill nearby vegetable plants.” Gonzalez’s point and sage advice: “surround yourself with good people.”

We all know the marigolds and walnut trees on our staff and at times, even the most true marigold colleagues can demonstrate attributes of the other. In truth, it’s much easier to be a marigold thinker and teacher when you are rested and refreshed. The question is where will your thinking lie this year when time is short, feedback on student work needs to be given, and multiple meetings are scheduled? Once the school year gets into full swing, how will you check your default setting to marigold?

Here are some ways to cultivate a marigold mindset:

1.  Be a good listener. Listen without judgement and without trying to solve the problem. Sometimes all that is needed is to listen. If requested for feedback, ask questions and share honestly. You are offering, if invited, to give the person a different perspective.

2. Be a doer. Be a role model to others by supporting action and next steps. If you are working to manage your time, stop talking things to death and take action. Nothing is set in stone and almost anything can be adjusted. Your ability to help ideas run efficiently is at its greatest when you are helping drive the action.

3. Give encouragement.  When giving feedback, start by highlighting the positive attributes of the idea and share constructive comments in support of your colleagues thinking. It is easy to be critical which can feel disrespectful and shut ideas down. Sharing thinking and putting ideas on the table is risk taking. Do you support and encourage risk taking by the way you respond?

Whether you are a new or returning teacher, most of us want to surround ourselves with  marigold colleagues AND most of us want to be one. By being a good listener, a doer and an encourager, you can contribute to a supportive culture and add value to the team.

Will you be the plant in the garden that supports the new teachers and all of your colleagues to flourish? Or are you going to be the walnut tree and slowly drain the rich nutrients from the soil around you until the plants nearby wilt. Among all of the preparation you can do this year, deciding who you want to be and taking steps to live that ideal is perhaps one of the most important.

Be a marigold!