As I continue to mine the similarities between farming and teaching…

I have been thinking about this comparison even more lately.  Below is a sort of ongoing chart of analogical complexities:

Concept Farming Teaching
Conception A good farmer has a plan, a conception of his “big idea” or what it is that the land and he can become together.  It is bigger than he is…he encompasses all that might be in the future and all that ought to be in the present. A good teacher is mindful of what has come before him and “where the student is headed” beyond his own classroom.  There must be an acquiescence to who the student is and what is possible, not simply what fills the time or meets “the standards.”
Calling Generational farmers are called to what they do.  They are passionate about good land, good seed, good food, good living.  That passion transcends all drought, blight, hard times, and even good times, providing for a continuity of calling over and above the momentary circumstances. A true teacher has risen above “the hireling” to that of a vocation.  They teach because they must.  Their passion for truth, learning, and the life of the mind outweigh any momentary considerations.  They might rather starve than leave the classroom.
“Slowness” Farming depends upon slow processes, many of which take years to come about.  The best farmers act out of a respect for this slowness and love for the third and fourth generations to come.  Their views repudiate the modern notion of “fast” or “instant” gratification. The best teacher knows that their efforts will outlive them.  A lesson well taught and well caught continues into the grandchildren of the student.  Such means that few teachers “see” the fruit of their work. They depend and love this very reality. This repudiates the current fad of immediate “assessment” and measurement of desired outcomes.
Patience This is a corollary to the “slow” concept directly above.  Impatience marks the modern farm.  Getting the most out the land and work in the quickest time for the greatest profit is the way of violence. The same is true for a teacher.  Speed kills.  Rarely can any worthy lesson be learned fast.  Only with patient teaching can there be lasting learning.  The rest is effort after foolishness.  Worse, such effort can often be violent and abusive to both teacher and learner.
Implanting The artful farmer knows he is not “getting from” the soil, but rather working with it to keep it fertile and life-bringing.  He plants seed, waters, and cares for the soil.  He is not against the land, or trying to take from it that which is not returned. His is not a concern for economy so much as ecology. A teacher who loves his art seeks to plant seed, not concern himself so much with the harvest.  A truly good planting in education brings forth a lifetime of reaping and yet further sowing in a heart whose soil can support such cycles of growth.  Perhaps Paul said it best, “I planted, Apollos watered, but it is God Who gives the increase.”
Nurture Much thought and writing has been given to the modern notions of farming being taken from industrial views of life.  The farm is not a factory, it is a nursery.  It cannot live under factory conditions of specialization, narrow extremes, and human manipulation. Too little thought has been given to the classroom metaphors.  Much of modern educational theory is based on the factory or industrial mentality.  Too little of it finds its roots in the garden, farm, or nursery.  Education is much less something done to a child and something much more done within and as a part of a child.
Cultivation Farms grow things.  They are not holding pens, or places of specialized science, but rather living, vibrant, diverse places of birth, life, growth, and death, all working together for continuity of thriving life. Classrooms should be a place of seeking to birth, grow, and continue the knowledge and understanding that lead to wisdom and virtue.   They should not become centers of industrial espionage, full of tests, acts of manipulation, and like nonsense.
Reliance upon God The main factors of life on a farm include the weather, soil conditions, and human work. The first is purely in the hands of God, the second is a combination of God’s blessing and human care, and the last is again up to man (in one sense) and reliant upon God in another sense. If education is at its base the growth of a man’s soul, then at its center it is totally reliant upon the work of God’s Spirit and His spiritual realities, much of which is at best only partially affected by the work of man.  It certainly does not fit a scientific formula easily written on a white board.
Natural Despite man’s attempt to circumvent such laws, at the bottom of all farming is the laws God has placed within nature.  Chemicals and genetic modification, et. al. still result in a sum total that is bounded by natural law.  “You can’t fool Mother Nature” is simply the pagan’s way of saying that “you reap what you sow.” Humans are humans by nature, not simply by chemistry or chance.  Natural laws, laws determined by man’s nature, are inescapable in education and only clear headed thinking about these laws will produce excellent learning.
Art vs. Science We worship the science lab in farming no less than any other area of our world.  But farming as a an act is not the product of laboratory knowledge as much as it is the accumulated wisdom of the apprentice, father handing on to son the accumulated customs and traditions of his fathers before him. Observation is at the heart of both art and science, but the eyes look at different aspects depending upon which you are pursuing.  The great teachers are those who see teaching as an art far more than a science.  This seems so simple, but is a radical concept in modern teaching methods.

As I worked on this, I decided that while it would be a post for now, it will become a page on this blog as well, where it can grow over the years to come.  Your input is always a sure way toward growing something like this.


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