Seedlings, trees, and fallen leaves

It’s Fall. Ugh.

As the last leaves drop, it is a good opportunity to share some recent thoughts inspired by the change of seasons beyond the sub-joyous feelings from cold, wet, and grey days. It is a season that offers a lot of natural analogies about education as well.

Around my neighbourhood, as in most, the trees have shed their fashionable foliage, trading in their shade and shelter for a minimalist cover of bark. Thankfully, the ground continues to accept the last colourful leaves without a fuss. This cover provides much needed nutrients and insulation to seeds burrowed beneath the surface.

I have cut my lawn for the last time this year and made sure the leaf litter was mulched back into the soil, not removed. No raking for this homeowner. I would never have known this without teaching a unit on ecosystems. Think of all the time I could have saved?

I have accepted that wearing shorts and a golf shirt to school is no longer a viable option. Like Fall, change is all around. Time to dig out the sweaters, toques, and other winter wear. Summerlike weather is gone, I know this because more students are trying to find excuses to hide indoors as temps dip or by the behaviour challenges arising from a number of weather related indoor recess days in a row.

Speaking of weather, the other week, I was really reminded of Fall’s arrival during an end of day bus supervision where the wind was so strong it felt like it was raining under my umbrella which then collapsed into uselessness shortly thereafter. Nothing like looking like a wet rag for meet the parent night, eh?
It’s a busy time of year at home and at school. Reluctantly, my patio furniture has been forced into hibernation. My class furniture has also been arranged, unarranged, and rearranged. There’s lots going on in and outside of schools.

Everyone is in motion and even though 20% of the year is on the books it feels like the work is just getting started – not to mention progress reports. Like squirrels living in a local ecosystem, teachers are busy gathering and storing marks for progress reports and Winter. UGH!

Well enough about that. I want to spring forward to Spring because I need to have something to look forward to as the cold sets in. This means a lot of front loading with students now as we have established many solid classroom norms and daily learning opportunities. The energy and effort we are all planting into our students now will quickly grow and become so much more visible when the sun finally melts the snow and our parkas are put away.

By Spring time, seeds which have been hiding under ground have become sun seeking sprouts that quickly turn into saplings in a matter of months. Soon enough these little trees will reveal their own little canopies, provide shade, and photosynthesize like their taller neighbours. Like the classroom, with time, our students are empowered to grow and contribute to the classroom first and then the learning community.

This can get scary sometimes. Not for students, they usually take everything in stride. My fear comes from not being able to clear the weeds away or worse, inadvertantly standing on the spot where they are trying to grow. And then I remind myself to just plant the seeds, clear the rubble, and get out of the way to watch them grow. Next, prune the branches with clear expectations and feedback and above all, keep the pests away.

By Summer, you will see new seeds floating to the ground and the process has come full circle. Until September.

In the meantime, take time to enjoy every moment as you plant the seeds this Fall. Stay warm and get ready for an amazing Spring.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson


Updated: October 31, 2019 — 11:27 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at

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