Mary Mary Quite Contrary How Does Your EDUCATION GARDEN Grow?

                                                                                                                                                                                                       By H Mac Wooten
 I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.  David Hobson.    

My 5th Grade Teacher Miss M.

 The origin of this nursery rhyme is about Mary Tudor or better know in her time as Bloody Mary.  Bloody Mary was the daughter of King Henry VIII.  Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic.  The Garden alluded to the graveyards that were growing in size for those who dared to continue to adhere to the Protestant faith.  The Silver bells (thumb screws) and cockleshells (instruments  attached to the genitals) were colloquialisms for instruments of torture.   Didn’t your parents explain this when reading the nursery rhyme to you? 

Everyone who likes to garden (this also includes the wanna-be gardeners who have a tomato plant in the plastic tub on the deck) please raise your hand!   You people in the back row … shut up and pay attention….. please,   I mean, please shut up!  For all of you Master Gardeners, Wanna-be Gardeners,  Career Gardeners , and the T P I T P T  on the deck, and a few of you with a BLACK THUMB,  I have a couple questions and want your opinions.    What’s the most important thing about Gardening (Education for those of you that didn’t catch on previously)  the soil (our education system)  the seeds ( children )   the fertilizer (the Administration/School Board ……. sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one)  actually The fertilizer should contain equal parts of what you introduce in the classroom to; inspire, nurture, to keep their attention, to help them grow to fulfill their own needs.   The garden (the school, a safe nurturing place, a place of creativity and LEARNING).   After you decide by consensus  the most important component of Gardening, we’re going to talk about those damn WEEDS.

WEEDS  Whataya gonna do about the weeds.   Do you pull them out one by one?  Do you hope Monsanto comes up with the answer?  Do you try to talk some sense into them, give them more / less homework, tutor them or (TUDOR them)?  Do you tell them to put their head down on the desk and go to sleep?  Do you let the Guidance Counselor deal with them?  Do you hold them back a year?  Do you let them take control of the garden?  Do you, OMG, send a note home to their parents?  Do you write in their permanent record and let that … follow them  … all the days of their life?  What the hell do you do with the weeds?  Do you not renew their contract?  Do you fire them after warnings, reprimand and all the legal steps?  Do you ignore them because they have their own issues and problems?  Do observe their class every other day and hope they quit?  DUH!  YES, of course there are different types of weeds.  Do you bring in the WEED WACKER from the District Office?  Do you wait until the TEST SCORES DON”T RISE and hope some state or federal mandate makes them go away?  Or just hold out until there’s no money in the budget and …. let them go?

You can’t spray them!  The EPA (State Board of Education, Federal Dept of Education, Local School Board, PTA, ACLU, MADD, and NATO will protest) !   Ok  maybe not MADD and NATO.  Every child deserves an education.  Every child is  … (ok I’m going to get yelled at)  Every child is NOT GOING TO COLLEGE!  A technical school is the best some kids can hope for and there are many that wont find the answer there.  It’s a fact that not everyone is going to be a Quantum Physicist at NASA.  There are going to be a few with a hair net in their long-term future …. and that’s ok, IF,  we did our very best for that child and that child reached his or her potential in as much as their abilities could serve them.  The problem we all have is when children fall through the cracks and there are a lot of cracks in the system.  We all know the 413 reasons why they fall through the cracks and we have plenty fingers to point …. maybe not 413 fingers.

AND THE ANSWER IS…….. Do the best you can.  Strive for excellence.  Love what you do or find another job.  Pray somehow you can ethically give him seven more points and let next years teacher deal with him!  Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.  Rudyard Kipling  

WD 40  The inability of achieving  instant success doesn’t mean we should give up.  Do you know about WD40?  The  inventor of  WD40 was trying to make something the stop rust or more correctly, prevent corrosion.  To prevent corrosion, we have to take water out of the equation.  The” WD” stands for water displacement.  the “40” ….  his 40th attempt at the formula.  Most of us get disappointed when something isn’t immediately a success the first time.  Some of us will try a second or third time and less of us, maybe a fourth time before giving up. (myself included).  What if Norm Larson had quit and  given up at attempt # 39?  How many of us should give it a few more tries?  Do you have a can of a few more tries in your tool box or are you like most of us who stop when success isn’t  immediate?  HUH?  Norm told me to use that word!

GRAVEYARDS   Are our graveyards filling with the children who have fallen thru the cracks?   Are the graveyards filled with the notion that everyone has to go to college?  Are our graveyards filling because of the latest and greatest new program just replacing another failed program leaves our education system weaker?   Are our graveyards filling with teachers who just can’t take it any longer?    I suspect we can answer  (E) …. all the above.  The erosion  continues in too many classrooms today.   What happened to those 3 R’s.  Are they outdated and not applicable anymore?  Can they not move us closer to RAISING THE TEST SCORES?  Are we past the point of the 6 R’s (remedial reading, remedial writing, etc)?  Maybe we need to replace the Department of Education with the Department of Land (children) Management.   I apologize that you’ve read this far and expected the answer from me.   I’m not the expert here ….. YOU are!

Teach a Teacher and our Volunteers provide Professional Development and help teach basic teaching skills to the Gardeners  (Teachers) here in Peru.   Many of the teachers don’t have the skills necessary to effectively teach and offer children the key to a much better future and a much better quality of life.   Here in Peru (as in many developing countries) we have too many seeds that haven’t had an opportunity to grow.  Peru is  a country that is just beginning to see the promise of a better future through Education.  The picture above is not a picture of recycling practices, it is one depicting the lack of educational practices.  This is a real honest to god field near our house.

Consider helping us shine the light of education.  Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing comes to birth, and without light nothing flowers.  Mary Sarton.  

For waaaaay more information, check us out at   and

Mac Wooten is President of Teach a Teacher nonprofit.  A native of Greenville S.C. We live and focus most of our  work in the Ancash region of Peru.

4 thoughts on “Mary Mary Quite Contrary How Does Your EDUCATION GARDEN Grow?

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