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The Garden

Where can I start?

Covid has thrown off so many of my 2020 plans I’ve lost count.

This year I planned on working and saving up for a new apartment, among other things. I think it was the early weeks of the pandemic that I realized I needed to shelf a bunch of projects and goals. A couple months later, and I started to figure out how I could float until next semester. Typically teachers work through the summer and save up but I found myself trying to drum up a Quarantine friendly side-job to work from a distance.

It never happened...

...and $600 isn’t exactly enough to put down for an apartment in New London.

Around this time the school chef approached me with an idea to revamp our school garden. I have a bit of hands-on experience so I know my way around a hammer at least. At first it was just a mini project, between Distance Learning and having cabin fever at home, it wasn’t bad having something to work on that was purely voluntary.

The way school transitioned was so sudden, the garden became an oasis from the jarring situation. It was hard enough fielding questions from students with black screens. It’s not like I could tell them much since teachers had the same, if not more unanswered questions from meetings. Abandoned books and curriculum held hostage in classrooms. Encouraging words of a timely return, drifting into a pacified unknown. 2020 was the perfect storm. Exposing where we were lacking in student support.

The garden wasn’t going anywhere though. Almost like nature was the one constant now.

Flash forward a couple months and students and teachers have now grown accustomed to the droning routine of online learning. It felt like the sense of urgency when your body aches from sleeping on your side too long. Like the feeling of needing to shake off the eggnog and winter vacation to change out of your holiday pajamas because work was starting again in January.

But this was life now…

I couldn’t blame my students. They were trying their best, but mentally how can you prepare a teenager for a pandemic? How do you tell them you will be given a computer and expected to be completely responsible for your education while the world is in a panic? Oh, and your parents may or may not lose their job and struggle to pay bills while we reveal exactly which students have need of a support system and don’t have access to nor can afford high speed internet. Also, don’t worry about the protests, just make sure you finish your algebra assignments...

...but I’m sure you’d rather hear about the garden.

It was amazing. Next thing you know we had posts up, fencing, cattle wire. We had already made plans to install railing. I couldn’t even remember what we were planting. We were moving so fast. The garden became a joyful labor and way to sow stress and frustration. Sharing farming practices as well as teacher practices. Pouring soil and gravel while planting seeds of being aware of our emotions. Letting go of control while staying aware of what was going on. The excitement of picturing students weeding and picking produce in the fall. The healing a garden could provide letting teenagers know they deserve to be invested in. The recognition that their lives do matter. That they deserve to be listened to.

A garden wasn’t enough to distract from the inequalities New London refuses to address…

...but it sure did help.

Photos taken June 6, 2020

Submitted by Josh Brown on Oct 14, 2020

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