As I look for ideas to write on each week, I find myself trying to make connections with about anything and education or leadership. Listening, reading, watching, experiencing… all these things help with topics that roll around in my mind. So, as I was mowing our yard yesterday evening, I started thinking…
First, let me say I enjoy mowing. Call me weird or a glutton for punishment, that’s ok. I put my headphones on, listen to a book on tape, and go at it. For three to four hours, I am lost in my own reality.
Well, how does mowing work its way into a blog regarding education or leadership? Today, mowing works its way into understanding and being a model centered around quality teaching of a lesson in a classroom or any other endeavor that can use the analogy.
When you get ready to mow your yard, what is the first thing you do? Please do not say grumble… That defeats the purpose because you are going to do it anyway. To answer, you plan and prepare… mower gassed up, weed-eater gassed up with enough chord and backup, etc.
The same goes for teaching; you prepare in advance. Why would you not? There is nothing worse than running out of gas on the backside of the yard away from the shed and the gas tank. The walk to and from is terrible enough, but mentally having to admit defeat of not planning “gets all over you.”
When you actually start a lesson, it is like mowing the yard—the big picture, per se. You mow “over” everything you want to be cut. That is what we do when we teach. We cover the lesson as we would mow the yard.
Next, I get out the weed-eater and start trimming around all the trees, the flowerbeds, up under bushes, etc. That is what I compare walking around, asking for verbal responses, or spot-checking for understanding in a classroom looks like. Cleaning up areas that I could not get the mower too. Is that not what we do with our instruction? How do you check for understanding?
By now, most people are finished, but not me. I like going for that “real clean” look. I get the edger out and start cutting the clean edge to the brick of flowerbeds or the concrete to the driveway. Usually, this is where I come back to almost wrap the lesson up. This might be where I give a connection to history or society in general. With the case of math, an opportunity to show how it is used or why it is needed. A lot of this depends on what subject matter you teach.
Well, surely by now, you are tired, me too. But we still have two more details to discuss—first, hedging. Now, I do not do this everytime I mow, because sometimes it does not need it. However, every so often, some of the bushes begin to overgrow, and stems start sticking up. That’s when I go in and do a “knock off” of the rough edges of the bushes. As a teacher, you know when you need to do just a little more with your instruction. There are times when “one more example” or “let’s look at this again” gets your lesson exactly where you want it.
Lastly, blowing everything clean. Yes, the last step. Outside of actually mowing, getting the blower out to just clean up the area allows me to begin to see the finished product. Same with a lesson. This is where you can actually discuss what I call “take-a-ways” from the lesson with your students. For me, this is the “good sigh” moment. Almost looks like you never did anything, to begin with—just a perfect clean picture.
The smell of success. Nothing like that “fresh-cut” smell of a yard. Now I know we cannot smell good teaching, but deep down, you “sense” your finished product. As I go and sit on the front or back porch with a glass of good sweet tea, I see and smell success. An accomplishment of a finished project that is what I think good quality lessons can be.
I am sure you can find your own analogy for the steps of what you believe quality teaching is… but there is something about mowing… Yes, a time to be in your own reality.
Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…
Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…
©2020 J Clay Norton
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Great blog today! I too enjoy mowing the yard because of the sense of immediate accomplishment.
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The Book Chamber said:
Thanks Toni. Hope you are doing well.
Jeremiah Shouts said:
I enjoyed the analogy even though I dislike mowing yards. It all began when I was a young man. My Dad used to make me mow the yard with a dull bladed rotary, push mower. After mowing the lawn, I ended up having to weed whack most of it because the mower missed most of it. It would take almost an entire Saturday. So, one day, I prayed, saying, “Lord, if I ever get married, please send me someone who loves to mow.” Well, when I saw my future wife in Gibson’s Discount Center, I knew she was the one I would marry. And I was sure of it when she told me she loved to mow. God is good.