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Grow like the grass

5 min read


SmartBlog on Education will highlight summer learning and enrichment for educators during June. In this post, education leader Fred Ende encourages educators to use the summer as a time to slow down, reflect and relax.

As I write this, students in the Northeast are counting down the days until the end of the school year. Their counterparts in other parts of the nation are literally counting down the minutes. To be fair, we shouldn’t take this countdown personally. Some of us may be counting down the days too because, in the big scheme of things, it isn’t about dismissing the institution of school, but rather about inviting in new learning opportunities.

Even for those of us who are in a district office or school building for twelve months, there is something special about the summer months  Maybe it is the slower pace of our “normal” responsibilities. Maybe it is the additional “me” time that we end up with. Or maybe it’s just the weather.

Maybe, quite simply, like the grass, the summer just encourages us to grow.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I learn as a person and as a professional. One thing I’ve noticed is that during the year, despite the number of great new ideas and wonderful pieces of information that come my way, I’m constantly struggling to find the time to reflect.

So, it isn’t that I lack the opportunity to come across great initiatives. Rather, it appears that it is more the fact that education isn’t a “slow” profession, at least not during the school year. And, unlike chillaxing in that inner tube on the lazy river, where we have the time to watch the trees go by, learning during the year often feels like we’re strapped to that inner tube as it bumps down a white water river, where we literally, learn as we flow.

What do most of us do when we’re learning as we flow? If I’m any indication (and I may not be), we tend to grab for the most innovative or important looking branches and hope we can hold on. If you’re lucky enough to work with a great supervisor and excellent team, then you all hold on together. If not, then you’re on your own. Needless to say, with so many needs to address, and so many great ideas out there, learning on the flow isn’t incredibly efficient (or effective).

But, it is what we have to do to stay afloat.

And that’s why the summer is so important. Much like the grass, we tend to grow most when we’re nurtured and provided with the resources we need (and note that time is one of them).  Grass doesn’t grow just because you put down seed. It requires water, sunlight, solid soil and time. While some of us can give or take the soil part, it isn’t so different for humans. We don’t learn as deeply without the proper ingredients.

Summer provides us all with an opportunity to enrich ourselves at the speed we need. I’m a firm believer in the saying, “We have to go slow to go fast.” The idea is a simple and important one. If we want to eventually build up our effectiveness and strengthen our efficiencies, then we need to take the time to Do. Things. Right.

And I don’t mean there has to be a right answer to how we do things. But rather, a way that feels right, that makes others feel right, and that sets us along a right path.

Without the summer, or some time akin to it, we would never be able to slow down, we would never be able to reflect, and we would never be able to change course. To paddle against a river, the river has to be going slow enough to make ground. Too fast, and all we do is get carried away.

So, how do we turn the torrent into a lazy river? How do we make sure we have the time to grow like the grass? Here are three thoughts:

Stop the presses! One of the reasons plants grow so well in the summer? They use the winter to live life in the slow lane. In order to get into a growth mode, you have to take the time collect your resources. This means actually slowing down enough to stop.

Own one new thing. Grass, in the general sense, isn’t particularly innovative on the surface. But all living things need to evolve in order to survive. Summer is a great time to try something new. With roughly 60 to se75 days, it serves as the perfect time period to set a “closed” goal, one that you set, and expect to achieve, in that time period.

Trim the to-dos. Like grass, we grow best when we don’t let any one item cause us to get overextended. Like the regular mowing we give our lawns, we need to keep our to-do lists a trim in the summer, so when we return to the hustle and bustle of a new year, our brains, and our bodies, are rested.

Use the summer to embrace your inner grass. In that way, come the new year, the grass will be just as green on your side, as the other.

Fred Ende (@fredende) is the assistant director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES. Fred blogs at, Edutopia and at ASCD EDge.