Guest Column

Sowing seeds for the future — in education and the world around us

By Christy Muecke
Posted 4/21/22

In education, teachers often talk about planting a seed — skill sets or learning tools that help students become active and successful members of our society.

If we give our students the …

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Guest Column

Sowing seeds for the future — in education and the world around us


In education, teachers often talk about planting a seed — skill sets or learning tools that help students become active and successful members of our society.

If we give our students the perfect amount of knowledge, from well educated and skilled teachers, our students will grow and retain that knowledge; if we maintain the perfect, least resistant learning environment, our students will flourish. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work?

I have taught in a variety of settings since 2005. I have taught in an alternative high school for students who did not thrive in the mainstream public school setting. I have taught in a treatment center for adolescents with addictions. I have also taught as a special education teacher in public schools, both at the elementary and secondary levels.

For some of these students, the seeds did not germinate to the expectations of others. So why don’t students germinate at the same rates? I mean, weren’t the conditions perfect for maximum growth?


Tough beginnings

As a nontraditional teacher, my students have taught me more about this topic than any textbook could have ever done. I can also use my own life as an example.

My family seemed “perfect” from the outside. However, I was raised by a dad and a stepmom who were very physically abusive. School was a retreat for me. It was a social event that got me off the farm, away from the chores of maintaining a dairy and the abuse of my parents.

Very few people knew what my life was really like. Teachers thought I was one of the difficult kids who struggled to learn. Yes, learning was very difficult for me but, Lord have mercy … nobody hit me or yelled at me or made me do hard labor for eight hours. I didn’t care about grades or attending to tasks; I was free to be me for a few hours each day. I can guarantee that few teachers understood this about me or even cared.

My childhood challenges were nothing compared to some of the challenges my students face. I think a lot about some of the students who have graced my classroom:

One young man whose mom was bored with shooting up heroin by herself convinced her son to join her, sticking the needle in his preteen arm. By age 14, his own addiction was out of control.

I think about my student with a traumatic brain injury as a result of having a tumor removed from her brain, leaving her a completely different person, angry at the world for taking away the life she never got to live.

I think a lot about a wonderful young man who grew up on the Wind River Reservation. He lived with his mom and siblings. He was a good kid who wanted to stay out of trouble. However, his environment did not allow this to happen. Local gangs would come to his house while his mom was at work. In his early teens, the gang did things to that child that should not be described to the readers of this article. He was forced to join them or continue the abuse that they bestowed upon him. He started his addiction as a gang member but also as a means to forget what had been done to him.

I think a lot about my adorable young students with cognitive disabilities. Even at a young age, they understand that they are different from the other students of their class. Little sight words like “of” are extremely difficult to learn because the letters do not follow the rules of how we think they should read. The students can’t even use the coping skill of rhyming it with another word to spell it correctly. My young students want to give up because it’s too hard to meet benchmarks or grade-level expectations. 

You might ask, how could these seeds germinate? How could these children learn in a school setting?

However, my students have taught me that seeds can still germinate, no matter what the past has done to them. The key is to accept the students where they’re at.


Showing patience and grace

An example of this was a young man who came to the treatment center. Once in my classroom, he crawled under the table and refused to do any schoolwork. So I put a book under the table with him. It took a while, but soon he was reading the book under the table. Then he finally came out from under the table and sat in a chair to read the book.

It took time and patience, but when this young man went back to his school, he became a peer model for other students. I cultivated the seed while he was in my classroom — not forcefully, but with patience and by giving him grace to bloom in his own time.

In the public school setting, it isn’t realistic to wait weeks for a student to come out from under a table. However, students can be cultivated in different ways. For example, one of my students was recently very upset with her reading ability. She refused to try because she didn’t want to make any more mistakes.

I pulled out my own kindergarten report card. (Yes, I still have it.) I struggled with many of the same things as my students. I explained that school can be difficult but I had faith in her abilities; she just had to be willing to work hard and do her best. Since we talked, my sweet young student is trying her best. She tackles me each day with giant hugs and thanks me for being her teacher. I cultivated the seed.

When we as family members or teachers or employers are frustrated with the germination of a seed that we have planted, look for better ways to cultivate the seed. Remember that not all seeds germinate at the same rate. Remember some seeds were dropped in hard-packed soil and had a tough start.

We can’t guarantee the future of each seed but we can care/cultivate them to the best of our abilities in the time we are given with that individual. I tell my children each day as I drop them off at school, “Change the world today, make it a better place.” They give me a, “Yes, mom.” They understand if they are kind and/or helpful to one person, they can make the world a better place. They, too, are starting to plant seeds of their own.

My seed fell on hard ground, but guess what? Though it took time, I still grew. Schooling was difficult, but today I have a master’s degree in education. Now, I use my experience to better understand others and to encourage them to reach their full potential.

My challenge to you as a reader is, what can you do to make the world a better place? What seeds can you plant? How are you going to cultivate those seeds so they will germinate and continue to grow?

I believe God has given each of us a gift. How will you share your gift with others?


(Christy Muecke is a longtime educator and Powell resident. She is honored to provide an education for the students of her classroom.)

Guest Column