ATST ED Newsletter January 2017 – Sow Well So They Grow Well

Sir Ken Robinson, the renowned educationalist and inspirational speaker, has long argued that the problem with the educational system is that we follow an ‘industrial’ model (churning out pupils on a conveyor belt like we churn out products) instead of an agricultural one, where we provide the best conditions for the pupils to grow in their knowledge and understanding.

Foundations for Farming is an organisation that has shown farmers they can increase their yields massively on four basic principles. They stress, firstly, that seed must be sown on time; if we are lazy in preparing the ground or cannot be bothered with doing it on time, then the crop will be affected. The second principle is that we sow at standard, in other words to a level of excellence. We do not become satisfied with mediocrity or average. Preparing the soil this way is harder and more time- consuming but it reaps a better harvest. The third principle is that there should be no waste. We should not just plough the whole field in the belief that the ground is prepared; it needs to be specific to be effective; burning and deep soil inversion waste much goodness. The fourth principle is that we should sow with joy. If we begrudge what we sow, if we see it as a desperate duty, it will have a negative effect on what we do.

Bearing in mind Sir Ken Robinson’s thinking, the Foundation for Farming principles for a good crop are equally true for us in the educational world as they are in the natural world; as such therefore they can also form the basis of what I will call the fourfold Tenets of Teaching.

  •   A great teacher will ‘sow’ On Time. Plan ahead. Prepare well. Start early. Never be late (for a lesson, with your marking). Allow for delays and anticipate unforeseen opposing conditions. Be urgent and attentive to the passing of the learning ‘seasons’. Dismiss lethargy, apathy, procrastination.
  •   A great teacher will ‘sow’ At a High Standard. Teach every lesson and project as well as you can with no shortcuts. Be honest and honourable in all you do. To reach high standards, you have to stand (you cannot teach sitting down) and to stand tall.
  •   A great teacher will ‘sow’ Without Wasting. Don’t waste time, resources, energy, opportunities by random, widespread sowing in the vague hope that something may take root deep in the darkness. Sow with deliberate, individual planting and planning.
  • A great teacher will ‘sow’ With Joy. We are called to be faithful, not successful, so we need to rid ourselves of self pity or complaining, of blaming others or making excuses, and teach with thankfulness, hope, belief and joy.

We do well to remember: A man reaps what he sows; a teacher reaps how she sows. Do keep checking the ATS website, for further articles – a recent relevant one is “Groundwork for Growth”. Thank you for what you have done in difficult circumstances; thank you for what you can and will do. Sow well!

I wish you great joy, fulfilment and fruitfulness as you go to sow so they grow.

Tim Middleton, Executive Director ATS