Cultivating Our Gardens

May has always been my favorite month… joyful family celebrations, opportunities to enjoy the out-of-doors, and the promise of summer to come. As an enthusiastic yet amateur gardener, May also signals planting season. My husband reliably plants a few vegetables, mostly for the rabbits, but my passion is flowers – and I admit, I show little restraint. My preferred way to celebrate my own May birthday is with my first (among many) visit to our local nursery. It truly rivals Christmas for me. After months of cold weather and gray surroundings, the thought that I could bring to my garden these glorious silhouettes, colors, and fragrances is true joy. It’s best that I make this shopping excursion on my own. I love to languish, reading planting instructions, grouping plants on the ground or in my cart to see how they complement each other, and this takes time. It also requires careful planning as I realize that I need something taller in that spot, or something orange in that planter. The process is thoughtful, intentional, and personal.

I have lived in the same home for many years and have several garden areas, some in sun, some in shade, and many pots and baskets. May is spent digging, planting, weeding, fertilizing, etc, in other words, cultivating my gardens. I learned many years ago that one of the gifts of annual flowers is fairly rapid gratification. June brings dahlias, zinnias, petunias, and other pleasing blossoms: the beautiful rewards of my recent work. But as June progresses, more rewards appear – my perennials. They are often not yet present or identifiable as I make my early plantings, and I am always surprised and delighted by what reappears after all the intervening months. By July, our yard is alive with flowers, bees, butterflies, and yes, still the rabbits. They all bring me great joy.

This year, we at McMillan have been reflecting on how we cultivate our gardens, and, of course, the metaphor is apparent: the thoughtful and personal attention we give to our students and our families, the careful planning that goes into our process of searching for the “right fit” schools for our students, and supporting our students to flourish during the process, whether they are heading to pre-kindergarten or high school. And as winter turns to spring, we celebrate with our families the results of the work that we did together, new beginnings at new schools. As I write this, entering my ninth year with McMillan Education, I am also delighted to have students and families returning, much like my perennials. Some are students I worked with years ago who are now moving to middle or high school; some are younger siblings of former students, and some are families referred by a former family. In this work, there is nothing more gratifying than to learn that a family found our support valuable, that their child is thriving in the school that we recommended, and to reconnect with these families, our valued partners in this complex field of education. I am both grateful and excited to begin a new season of cultivating relationships with my students and their families and looking forward to our time together. Like my garden, cultivating these relationships brings me great joy.

About The Author

Carolyn Nelson, M.Ed.