System 44
Find Your Marigolds!

This summer, I came across an inspiring and humorous article written by Jennifer Gonzalez titled "Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers" that explains the difference between the marigolds and walnut trees in the teaching profession. The principles presented in this text, however, can apply to all people, in all occupations, and all walks of life.

Jennifer Gonzalez exhorts teachers to find the marigolds in their school and to stay close to them.  She states, "Having a hard day? Go to your marigolds. Not understanding the grade reporting system? Go to your marigolds. Confused by something the principal said at the faculty meeting? Marigolds."

She then shares statements that "walnut trees" tend to make with new teachers.  She advises us to stay away from them but to also extend compassion to them as well because "Their toxicity comes from a place of real pain, and they themselves probably fell under the influence of the walnut trees who came before them."

I have had to navigate numerous walnut trees throughout my past 31 years of teaching, and only by the grace of God and the marigolds in my profession, have I been able to keep my marigold status with my students as well as with my friends and family.

Walnut Tree's Comments about the classes I teach.

You teach a scripted program. How easy. You don't have to lesson plan.

My response:  I have to modify the ReaL Book and System 44 lessons presented in the Workshops and modules to meet the needs of each learner in my classes, according to the goals/objectives stated in their IEP's, data from the program, and my best judgment.

Your students learn everything on the computer!

My response: My students interact with the software for 20-25 minutes of the class, and I need to monitor their progress, assist them with the work, check their status, grade their fluency and writing zone work and plan small- group instruction based on the data received from the software.  I then report the data at parent and district -wide meetings that sometimes include attorneys and parent-advocates. And while they are learning skills on the computer, I am conducting small-group instruction and monitoring students engaged in Independent Reading.

You get your own classroom and supplies.

My response:  I don't have my own classroom. I have to share it with three other teachers. I can't hang READ 180 Posters or other materials without making certain that the other teachers who use my room get equal space on the wall. And forget about the microphones and settings on the computers. Once a Resource Room, Learning Lab or another class uses the room, all that I have set up is disrupted and ruined. And after nine years of teaching READ 180, I still do not have an Independent Reading Section in my room because the room is used for other classes taught by other teachers who have students with different needs.

You don't have to grade essays, tests, quizzes, homework assignments, etc.

My response: I am constantly evaluating my students' work and progress using the work in the students' ReaL Book, in-class essays and quizzes, projects, rSkills (End-of-Workshop) tests, and the invaluable data provided via Teacher Central. I also assign daily homework and use this homework rubric to evaluate my students' progress.

My Marigolds include:

  • My students who see their success in my READ 180 classroom.
  • Parents who trust me with their children knowing that I will do my best to help their children become literate adolescents who will eventually become independent readers, writers, and critical thinker.
  • My administration who supports me with almost everything I need to make the Stage B READ180 program work for all of my students.
  • The support I receive from the HMH Community and the READ 180 Community of teachers.

The article "Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers" inspires me to stay connected to the people who help me to grow with teaching my students.

Life isn't easy. Teaching is a highly challenging job, and we all sometimes feel unappreciated and experience setbacks both in our home and career lives.

The key to success is to find the "marigolds" and refrain from the "walnut trees" both in your district and in your life, and you will prosper in all that you have been called to do.

Take the time to log onto the READ 180 Community to share your thoughts, feedback, suggestions, insights, and questions.

We care and want you to know that you are in the midst of vibrant, growing marigolds in the READ 180 Community. 

System 44 Educator
  • tvickers

    These are very well spoken responses!

    What a great play on optimism vs pessimism for teachers. Love it!