Why Every Teacher Is a Gardener Too

You always remember the wisdom a mentor shares with you in the trenches. 

You may forget all the other details from the same time period: the black toenail caused by an eager second grader holding a heavy-duty stapler. The incident form you filled out after an interaction with an angry parent. The sound the teacher next door made when she saw her students’ state testing scores. 

But you don’t forget the advice an older teacher gives you on an afternoon when you’re ready to lock your classroom door, curl up on the reading rug, and cry into a picture book. On one of those days—a day that felt like evidence that nothing we’d done with our students had made a bit of difference in their lives—my co-teacher told me what someone else had told her: “You are a seed planter,” she said, “That’s our job.” 

The mental images her words brought to mind didn’t match our circumstances. We were standing in the middle of a concrete safehouse hidden inside urban city limits. Although we were teachers working for the largest school district in Texas, the majority of our young students had only seen tractors on TV. 

But she was right. We were seed planters.

Seed Planting 101 

Teachers are seed planters. Seed planters spend hours sweating to clear fields, break up rocky soil, and prepare difficult ground for new life. Before they begin planting, they plan their work by studying the environment. They use specialized tools and equipment, customizing the materials to maximize crop yield. Once the seedling is planted, they nurture it, watering it and watching the weather, fertilizing, and constantly adapting to changing conditions. 

But that wasn’t my co-teacher’s point. 

Her point was that as a seed-planting teacher, you pour all of your energy into getting the seedling into the ground and nurturing it throughout its beginning stages of life—but you may never actually see it bloom. Sometimes you may get to see evidence of little sprouts peeking through the dirt, but you probably won’t be there to see whether or not the plant flourishes. Your job is to be faithful with the work you’ve been given, even if you never see the full results.

Teacher Appreciation Day 

If you’re a classroom teacher in the United States, you’re probably down to the final weeks with your seedlings. You’ve already spent over eight months putting all of your effort into planting, and this week, the United States designates time to celebrate your work as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week. Today specifically, your administration, educational organization, or students’ parents may make special efforts to acknowledge your hard work. 

Are the gifts and trinkets given this week proportional to the amount of effort you put in the rest of the year? No. Depending on your district and level of parent involvement, today may be just another day—and at this point in the school year, you may not be up for much of a celebration anyway. The work isn’t over yet, and you may be frustrated by how little fruit there is to show for it. If your students haven’t made the academic or behavioral progress you hoped to see at this point in the school year, you may feel like you’ve wasted your time. 

It takes faith to be a seed planter—especially when evidence of progress isn’t there. It takes faith to keep showing up and working hard when it feels like your labor is in vain. If that’s the case, where are you rooting your faith? If you’re feeling discouraged, could it be that you believe the success of this school year depends on you? 

Working the Lord’s Field 

If you feel the weight of this school year on your shoulders, grab your Bible and open to 1 Corinthians 3. Although Paul is addressing misperceptions about ministers in this passage and not talking to those in the classroom, the truths found in these verses can be applied to the last few weeks of your semester: 

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:5–7)

What then are you? (1 Cor. 3:5

Paul’s questions (“What then is Apollos? What is Paul?”) addressed the Corinthians, who had focused too much of their attention on the ministers of God rather than on God Himself. Didn’t they realize who those men were? They weren’t saviors. They weren’t divine. They were servants accountable to the Lord and solely operating under His authority.

Those may seem like obvious statements, but church members aren’t the only ones prone to putting the wrong focus on those in charge. Both spiritual leaders and classroom teachers can run the risk of believing those lies about themselves. At the end of the chapter, Paul warned other ministers to watch their personal perceptions. “Let no one deceive himself,” he wrote. “If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool so that he can become wise” (1 Cor. 3:18). 

This may not be the normal message for an end-of-year pep talk, but the antidote to discouragement isn’t to think of yourself and your abilities more. It’s realizing that if you were to stand beside the limitless God and compare His accomplishments and role to your responsibilities, you couldn’t hold a candle to what He is able to do. That’s good news! It’s God “who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). 

Paul’s question, “What then is ____?” was rhetorical (1 Cor. 3:5). For the sake of reminding your heart, replace “Apollos” with your own name, and answer as Paul did. You too are a servant of Jesus Christ working with all the powers and privileges of one under the authority of the King.

But God gave the growth. (1 Cor. 3:7)

In Corinth, Paul had founded (“planted”) the church. Apollos continued ministry there (“watered”). But God was the one who produced results. He alone “gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7). All the glory belonged to Him. 

Read 1 Corinthians 3:6–7 again: 

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, then, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 

One commentator points out the grammatical shift between those two verses. He says that the shift from the past tense (“I planted, Apollos watered”) to the continuous tense (“God went on giving the increase”) is important. “Ministers come and go,” one commentator wrote, “but God’s own work continues.”1

As you look at your own “field”—your school year and all that has come with it—borrow Paul’s perspective. Teachers come and go, students come and go, but God’s own work continues. If you have seen growth, stop and give credit to God. Where you haven’t seen the results you wanted, trust that it is still God’s field. His own work continues—and it will continue long after you close out this semester. 

While you may not get to see all that God is doing now or will do after this school year ends, you can trust that He will finish what He has started and that every one of His plans will succeed. There may not be evidence of fruit today, but you’re still called to continue serving Him. As you do, “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Countdown to Harvest Time

You only have a few more weeks left of this school year. If I asked you for a number right now, you could probably give an exact number of days. How will you approach them? Will you remember your role and surrender these final hours to the Lord? 

You are a seed planter, but more importantly, you are a servant of Jesus Christ, who laid down His own life in humility. He knows how hard your job is. He sees all that you have sacrificed this school year. Be encouraged that one day God will reward you for your faithfulness, and He will faithfully complete what He has started. May you rest in that truth this Teacher Appreciation Day, and may it lead to even greater appreciation of the God you get to serve.

Were you or a teacher you know encouraged by this article? If so, thank a monthly partner! Revive Partners provide for the ongoing needs of the ministry through prayer and regular financial gifts that allow Revive Our Hearts to publish high-quality, trusted content like this on a daily basis. To learn how you can partner with the ministry, visit ReviveOurHearts.com

Anthony C. Thiselton, “The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text,” New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 302.

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's … read more …

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