Last week, while I was reading a blog that I follow, a fellow blogger made a comment that “teachers are like trees”. He made a lot of sense.
The life cycle of a tree falls into seven categories: Infant, Youth, Prime of Life, Middle Age, Senior, Twilight and Death.
In teacher terms, Infant/Youth teachers would be those with zero to five years of experience.
During this phase, trees are at their most vulnerable. Trees are very thin and small, though some may quickly grow taller than the average human.
Infant trees will often survive just fine on their own, but with coaxing, care, and a little attention, infant trees can grow tall and strong.
To care for youth and infant trees, they need protection and room to grow while they establish themselves in their surroundings.
At this stage, their growth and form can be influenced, but their small size makes them easy to damage or kill with thoughtless action. When they are kept uninjured and free to grow, they respond with fast growth, solid establishment, and good health.
In teacher terms Prime of Life/Middle Age teachers would be those with six to fifteen years of experience.
Prime of Life
Now is the time to sit back and enjoy your tree. Trees in their prime of life will take care of themselves with little outside help.
Shade trees will offer almost no trouble except an occasional interfering or dead lower branch that may need removing. In forest situations, selective thinning will often encourage even greater growth and better health. Resist the urge, however, to make a premature harvest. Let your tree continue to grow.
Shade trees at this stage are usually spectacular. They are still in good health and will begin to develop their own unique character.
Watch for insect and disease attacks that may reduce tree health. Meanwhile, enjoy its benefits as the tree continues to age.
In teacher terms Senior/Twilight teachers would be those with sixteen years or more of experience.
To keep your tree in good health at this stage, and at during middle-age, it is a good idea to keep dead limbs pruned out of the tree. Watch for insect and disease attacks that may reduce tree health. In the forest, watch for tree health and growth rates so harvesting returns can be optimized.
While the tree has many more years to live, it is nearing the end of the life stages.
Monitor the tree’s base, and make sure it is not becoming unsound. Shade trees can be kept safe by continuing to remove dead limbs. When caring for trees in their twilight, it helps to remember that, for many trees, this phase can last for as many as fifty years; they usually don’t go in a hurry.
All trees will inevitably die at some point, and rest in peace.
At all stages of a tree’s life they require specific care in order for them to remain strong and healthy; teachers require the same type of care. Infant/Youth teachers require more guidance and support than Prime of Life/Middle Age teacher or Senior/Twilight teachers. Infant/Youth teachers are like the small Christmas tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”; they need lots of extra loving care so that they can shine.
Prime of Life/Middle Age teacher should be the “rock stars” of your school. They should stand out and you should be proud of their accomplishments. They still need to be cared for and receive nutrients. If they are left to survive on their own, then eventually they will wither and die.
Senior/Twilight teachers should have well established root system. They should possess a strong foundation that makes it hard to shake their confidence. They might be able to survive long periods of time without nutrients, but eventually they will need nutrients. The longer they receive nutrients, then the longer they will be able to remain alive and strong.
Eventually all teachers reach that point in their career when they enter the “death” stage, when they are just done. Honor your Senior/Twilight teachers as they reach retirement.
Administrators have you fed your teachers today? A small positive word of encouragement can mean a lot to a teacher. I challenge you to choose five teachers everyday to say one positive thing to them. Remember that few poison words will do more harm than you may realize, the poison may seep over to other teachers.
Remember the Rule of Thumb: Ten positives for every negative.
Did you give life to a tree today or poison it?
David R. Taylor
26 Year Teacher, Coach, and Principal