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 are a distillation of key ideas from her book, “Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature.”

DSC_0007_2“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She (or he) must first love and understand the universe.” –Maria Montessori

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 2013, we tend to live reactive lives and particularly as educators, we use our precious energy and time in the service of others.

I humbly suggest there is another path to fulfillment and growth. For those of you interested in joining me on this journey, I invite you to begin by trying a few exercises that can launch your process of self-care and self-discovery.

*Spend a full week paying attention to your inner monologue. Resolve to change any negative messages you hear into positive, supportive statements. After just a few days of this deliberate thought shifting, you’ll be well on your way to a new, more authentically nurturing way of relating to yourself.

*Focus on a sense of purpose that will strengthen the deep roots needed to help you hold your ground during life’s storms. Find a nature filled setting where you can sit and write for an uninterrupted period of time. (I’ve found that when I’m surrounded by nature it’s easier to focus on something greater than myself, on higher purposes than I might connect to otherwise.) Don’t censor what you write; let your inner wisdom speak freely. Re-read what you’ve written… what clues and themes emerge?

*Create your own definition of heart-centered education. Consider how connections with the natural world can deepen your ability to support children from a place of appreciation, gratitude, and a genuine sense of wonder. Once you’re able to choose one phrase or sentence that expresses your commitment to your work, jot it on a post-it note and place it someplace prominent, so that you can begin each day remembering why you love what you do.

Self-nurturing—preparing our soil—takes time and is, for most of us, a lifelong journey. On those “rainy” days when things feel more frustrating than fulfilling, I invite you to keep in mind this quote by Pema Chodron: You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather.