I have some wonderful friends who are incredible gardeners and plant lovers. I love plants but honestly, I’m not that great (so far) at keeping them alive. I owned a house with a yard before and I loved the idea of gardening but the work of keeping the weeds away and remembering when it had rained and not rained and knowing which plants should go where and then actually planting them there really stressed me out. So my yard was pretty pathetic and one of the reasons I moved to my new place was to not have a yard or have to do any of those things. This summer I was at one of my friends’ homes who has this incredible garden. She really knows how to design the space and also take care of it. My other friend who has this vast plant knowledge was also there. Listening to the two of them talk about plants and their needs and the placement of them made me shed some of my shame around my inability to take care of plants and ask some questions.
They explained to me how to repot my plants. Something seemingly so simple – tip the plastic pot upside down and squeeze the dirt and plant. Then pull the roots out and place into new soil and water.
They taught me how succulents can grow when separated from the original plants. That I could separate one of the leaves and it would propagate. I could also pull the dead leaves off the stalks and the plant would just be very skinny and tall. They showed me how I could separate a gathering of the plants and replant into a planter and it would survive.
I shared with them how my plants often died and they said I probably was overwatering my plants and to chill with the watering. When I moved one of my plants from one pot into a larger pot it was sopping wet – like it was living in the ocean wet – proving their point to me.
The next day I went and got some more potting soil and repotted my plants to give the large ones more room; to have the small succulents have other pots so I have more succulents; and overall just assess all of the plants and their immediate environment.
I have been really privileged and lucky to go to quite a few conferences with some incredible people. I am not going to go through each conference to share my learning specifically from that space. But as my summer comes to an end I want to share what I’ve learned overall from these experiences. I was able to attend All Y’all, Free Minds Free People, UDL Symposium, and the Teaching Tolerance Workshops. I spent time with some incredible humans this summer. I was able to meet people I had only spent time and space with virtually. It might sound strange but it wasn’t like this awkward meeting someone, it was as if we had been spending time in person, because our friendships were real and never skipped a beat.
At one point in my summer, I was spending time with Christie, Marian, and Nate. We were discussing our contexts and the work we needed to do there and the enormity of it all. It was a moment that felt so heavy as I reflect on that conversation. Nate reminded us to decenter ourselves from this narrative. He said, “We are not the one who is going to make the change because we cannot do anything without the community around us.” For me, this landed hard and clear. When I begin to get overwhelmed, I’m often thinking only of myself – but I need to slow down and return to the community. There isn’t just one community either to return to – but many. I started my summer at All Y’all in Dahlonega, Georgia. In this space I felt so alive and fully me. Listening to some of the smartest people I’ve ever met speak on social justice, equity, and the South in such beautiful ways with a wonderful Southern drawl was significant cognitive dissonance for me. It was also this beautiful realization that I’ve spent most of my life trying to deny my love of the South and translate my thoughts with a Southern accent into what I’ve been taught is “proper English.” All Y’all was the space that I began to embrace the entirety of me – the past, the present, and the future. This feeling of being and embracing my authentic self continued as I felt the convergence of my passion around powerful instructional practices and inclusion and embracing all humans in education with a focus on spiritual practices and incredible self care. This I felt most strongly at Free Minds Free People where the opening ceremony included a beautiful land acknowledgement, dancers, a powerful visualization for our bodies and where we would like to head towards, and a mindblowing community care statement. I felt this peace in my soul, I no longer need to compartmentalize each of the pieces of myself – which I didn’t do when I was in the classroom but had been struggling with how this looks in other spaces. I can slow down and integrate the important human pieces to education – things such as love, spirituality, and patience. Without these elements, what is the point of education anyways?
The needs of those plants are so similar to my own needs. In order to grow I need an appropriate sized pot, so sometimes I’m going to need a new space to stretch out. I need to slow down and notice where the sun is coming from and lean into it. I can separate from the source but I should return to it as needed. I also know I need to ensure my basic physiological needs in order to really thrive. These simple things are how I’m beginning my new school year – a new pot; a revived reminder of taking care of the basics; returning to community often; and move towards the sunlight – actual and metaphorically.
How will you take care of yourself as the school begins?