I listen to a lot of podcasts and do a ton of reading in the educational sphere. In today's age of social media and technology, there is really no excuse for not bettering yourself professionally because so much information is at your fingertips at all times.
Awhile back, I heard about the concept of being a Marigold. I swear I heard Jen Gonzalez talk about it on her Cult of Pedagogy podcast, but I can't find the actual episode that I heard it in (short of going back and listening to them all to find it).
In short, she notes that marigolds are the perfect garden companion plant because "If you plant a marigold beside most any garden vegetable, that vegetable will grow big and strong and healthy, protected and encouraged by its marigold. Marigolds exist in our schools as well – encouraging, supporting and nurturing growing teachers on their way to maturity" (Jen Gonzalez, 2013).
This past week, my TA (teacher's assistant...one step down from student teaching) told me that in their seminar class, which helps them unpack and process what they are learning in the classroom with their cooperating teacher (CT), their university supervisor was talking about finding your marigold. She said the supervisor asked the group (of about 12-14 TAs) to raise their hand if they thought their CT was a marigold. There are 5 TAs in my school and she said she was the only one who raised her hand :)
Now, I am not knocking my colleagues at all. Everyone approaches the mentoring role in their own way. I had three CTs of my own and none of them were stellar. I mean, they weren't horrible (well, one was) but I learned what not do to from them as well. So I have vowed that whenever I have hosted a student teacher, I would be sure to be as nurturing and uplifting as possible while also sharing the realities of what it means to be a teacher in today's world.
And let's be honest...it isn't always cupcakes and flowers. Sometimes it is downright crappy. Long hours, little pay, total disrespect from most of society. It can get old sometimes. But then, you have those moments when you FINALLY reach that tough-to-reach kid and it makes it all worth it. Or a parent thanks you for being your tenacious self because she knows you are fighting for HER child in a way she doesn't know how to do. Those are the moments that keep me in the profession...because I know that despite the downs that come with the job, the ups are so much more powerful.
Teaching is truly a calling. It is not "a job" and should not be gone into without a solid understanding of the battles you will face politically (especially now).
To me...that makes being a marigold even more important. I am realistic with my interns. I tell them that sometimes teaching is really kind of horrible. But mostly, it is awesome. You get to do something different every day, every year because the kids are different, the parents are different. It is never the same from day-to-day and the opportunity you have to grow and make a difference changes too. That's pretty powerful.
How do you get to be a marigold? Be positive. Be affirming. Be genuine. Most of all, be honest. Some days are hard and that is not only normal but it is also okay. No one is perfect. Everyone (even veterans like myself) still have room to grow. Nurture those new teachers; give them an uplifting boost when they are struggling, give them guidance when a strategy they tried didn't work, suggest a new technique if you think it will help them. Don't tell them they are doing everything wrong, that will help no one. Be a listening ear. Be supportive. Most of all, be a friend. Don't talk about them behind their backs, don't stick your nose in their business if it doesn't concern you. Sometimes just being there, being real and honest is all that those upcoming teachers need.
Be a marigold, not a walnut tree.