The origins of this site begins with my love of trees. For me, there is a sense of comfort and peace that comes with being amongst trees. I feel calm, connected, alive, and aware. These same feelings come over me every time I step foot into my classroom. I view my classroom as my own personal forest. My students, my trees.
Just as the oak or birch or gingko are unique varieties of trees, distinct in their own way, so are our students unique and special. They all come with different stories and have different reasons for existing as they are. Some have already grown tall, with strong, deep roots. Others are like saplings, in need of as much care and love as I can give them. If I don’t acknowledge these things, if I don’t accept why my trees are different, I will fail in helping them as they try to continue to grow. I will have failed as their caretaker because I didn’t appreciate each one or tend to each of them individually.
In the classroom I call my forest, it is my goal to help each of my “trees” get the care they need on a daily basis. I need to nurture them so they grow strong, despite their difficult beginnings. I need to encourage them to grow tall and full so they can provide protection for those who need it. I need to teach them how to destroy toxicity and to partner with others to provide support to others around them struggling to breathe. I have to encourage my trees to be unafraid to show the world who they really are. It is my job to give them the support they need so their bark will grow thick, but not so thick that they become numb to feeling. I want each tree to be whole enough that they can stand on their own when they leave our little forest for the big forest called Life.
The expression “can’t see the forest for the trees” is often used when one is too involved in the details of a problem to look at the situation as a whole. As a teacher, this expression is the antithesis of my role in my classroom forest. As a teacher, it is my job to look at the details of every single tree in my classroom in order to see the whole forest thrive. I see the forest because I look at each tree–each root, each trunk, each limb, each leaf. This is what I call teaching Root to Canopy.
I love every beautiful, unique tree in my forest, and I am blessed to be able to walk among them each day.
So, as you navigate my site, please feel free to comment along your journey. Tell me what works and where I can add, refine, adjust, or uproot ideas. Your contributions are welcomed and desired. I want you to become a part of my forest, too! We are all in this together! We are one forest, one team.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @DHarrisEdS where we can continue to connect and grow with one another!
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Dawn Harris is an Adolescent/Young Adult educator serving gifted and non-gifted students in the Integrated Language Arts classroom. She is an Associate Professor in the Graduate Teaching Program at Wright State University in Dayton, OH., and a licensed Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development Specialist.
“We don’t grow by accident, we grow by design.”Anonymous