What can floundering strawberries teach us about our own wellbeing?


One thing that I have come to believe is that nature knows what we should do, if we only pay attention.

Nature can serve as a guide for how to build systems of efficiency.  I haven’t really talked about it much in Teaching Well, but I have a design certification in Permaculture.  Permaculture began as an environmental design system but I have come to believe (and so have many before me) that permaculture (and essentially paying attention to nature) can show us how to proceed with re-creating systems that aren’t working. 

In our current climate, that could be our social justice system.  It could be our voting system.  It could be our political system. Those are definitely topics to discuss, but I don’t have a lot of knowledge about how to begin that process.  Instead I have really been thinking a lot about how studying nature can inform how we approach our educational system as a whole and even our classroom and teacher “ecosystems” specifically.  

Here’s what I know…When we begin to apply these natural principles to our teaching life (and our whole life) we will be “teaching well”!

So, for the time being, I’m going to spend some time connecting things that are happening in our natural world to some of concerns that we have as teachers (personally and professionally) and maybe even provide some insight about how nature can help us solve those larger educational system topics.  

So without further adieu…

Tis the season for strawberries.  At least in Eastern PA, where I am located.  What I’ve noticed in our backyard is that some of the strawberries are good, but some of them are hard and rot quickly.  Also, some of our strawberry patches seem to have fizzled out much more quickly than others. So I was sitting here thinking about why that may be and I did some research.  Here’s what I found about strawberries…

Here are some of the top strawberry rules…

  1. They grow best in direct sun

2. They need space for their runners to spread and produce more opportunities for flowers and fruit

3. They need sandy soil and about an inch of water per week for the growing season

4. They shouldn’t be planted where peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes have been grown because of disease….

Hmmmm….the first three we have done, but the last one…that is something that I know we haven’t paid attention to.  I know that we have strawberry plants around our tomato and pepper plants.  Could that be why they have fizzled?  Could that be why they are getting mushy?  Could that be why they aren’t as abundant as the others?

The thing is, our strawberry crop has always been “good enough” and produced enough to keep us happy, but what if just changing that one thing could make them more prevalent, happier, better than before and allow them to flourish?  Until I looked it up, I hadn’t known that very important guideline.  Obviously the strawberries weren’t so hindered that they didn’t produce anything, but what if just relocating the beds or relocating the tomatoes and peppers we could have a more abundant crop.  And now with a two year old, the more strawberries that can be picked, the better!  

So how can that inform our own health and wellbeing as teachers?  Well, maybe you are feeling good enough.  Maybe you have performed good enough.  Maybe your school years are good enough.  But are you flourishing?  Are you doing most of the things to support yourself, but is there ONE thing that could make a difference.  Is there ONE thing that could create a ripple effect into the rest of your life?  

For the strawberries, I can move the plants and hope for a better crop next year.  But for you, you have the opportunity right now to test out some things that could make a profound difference and you will be able to see the “fruits of your labor” (haha) far sooner than a strawberry crop.

So list out the things that you know are your ideal conditions and needs for health and well being.  What are they?  Are all of them optimal right now? What could be moved and changed?  What is going well? 

You don’t have to change everything.  And scientifically speaking, you don’t want to or you’ll never know what’s really working.  But I am going to make a small change to our strawberry plants and hope that we get a better crop.  What can you change/modify/increase/continue to support your optimal wellbeing?  Whatever that is, I urge you to take the time to make the modifications you need to live the life you want.

If you’d like a little extra support in beginning the first steps of your own summer self-care routine, check out…

Teaching Well’s FREE guide: Teacher Self-Care Emergency Triage.  

In this six page document, you will get a quick start guide, tracking document, reflection questions, and 60+ ways to implement small mindful self-care moments into your days!


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