Heart-Centered Teaching: An Invitation To Prepare Your Soil

This is the first in a series of blog posts by Nancy Rosenow, Executive Director of Nature Explore. These posts were originally featured in 2013 and are a distillation of key ideas from her book, Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature.”

“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She (or he) must first love and understand the universe.” –Maria Montessori

392_065I’d like to begin by sharing my definition of “heart-centered teaching inspired by nature.” I’m talking about a way of supporting children that comes from a place of love for each other and a place of awe and appreciation for the wonders of the world around us. I’m talking about a belief that children’s skill development is only one aspect of learning, and not the most important one at that! I believe that helping children find out who they are and what they can contribute to the world is the most crucial work we educators can do. And I believe connections with the natural world can provide strength and inspiration for our personal journeys.

In the coming weeks, I am going to invite you to journey with me through a metaphorical garden, one in which educators recognize that caring for themselves allows them to care for children; in which strong roots are nurtured; and in which effective gardening tools—chiefly connection to the natural world—are used to grow balanced, creative teachers and, in turn, healthy and thriving “little plants.”

I believe that before we can examine our role as heart-centered educators, we must devote time and attention to “preparing our soil.” Although it can feel like an impossible feat in our fast-paced, frenetic culture, we must find ways to deeply and richly experience life in all its complexity: wonder, joy, sorrow, excitement, frustration, curiosity, laughter, inspiration and love. Declaring this commitment to our own growth allows us to be equally invested in our students’ development.

This sounds simple, right? Ha. While the idea of self-nurturing is not new, the preponderance of self-help books, spiritual healing movements and therapeutic retreat centers suggests that self-nurturing remains an ongoing challenge in our culture. In 2015, we tend to live reactive lives and particularly as educators, we use our precious energy and time in the service of others.

This week, I invite you to consider the ways in which you already care for yourself. How do you energize before a new work week begins? How do you unwind after a long day? Take a few moments to journal or just ruminate on this question. Next week, I will share a few of my ideas for self-care and self-discovery. But in the meantime, I suspect you can harness a few of your own!