7 Ways Training is like Growing Grass
Maybe you have a lawn service. Perhaps you live in a place where the lawn is lush. Or maybe you go to a park to find anything green. For me, growing grass is an annual battle that reminds me of a lot of learning and training. And, just to be clear, I should admit that I’m a total amateur when it comes to growing grass, but not growth mindset training.
Growing Grass is like Growth Mindset Training
I wish my grass was like a tree, that grows and grows with little attention. Instead, it’s more like a person, a life-long learner who needs constant attention, repetition, and reinforcement. Every year, we need to build upon what we already have and see bare spots not as headaches or failures, but as opportunities for further growth. Here’s how I find growing grass to be like corporate training:
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- Assess the problem – As I write this, I must admit that I came up with points 3-9, before adding these first two points, which are the obvious starting points. Therein, might lie my biggest problem. Assessment and preparation can’t be an afterthought. I should have started by testing the soil, checking for sunlight, and analyzing the current “grass” (or rather green stuff) growing on my lawn. Because I didn’t have the tools to do this and last year’s calls to lawn service companies proved futile, I charged ahead. Omitting this step when trying to grow grass is not smart (and I’m paying the price), but the stakes certainly are not as high as if the personal development of classes full of learners were in my hands. So, don’t take the shortcut I did. Invest the time to understand the current issues or shortfalls before you attempt to move forward.
- Prepare ahead of time – Last year, lacking an aerator, I raked through the existing scrappy grass, hard dirt, and soft moss. Following the recommendations of experts, I even laid down topsoil. In some areas of the lawn, this worked quite well. However, given that I’m back at it this year (meaning, last year’s attempt was not 100% successful), I skipped the topsoil this time. Another shortcut that I’m already regretting. When it comes to training… no shortcuts! Do the work that needs to be done. Lay the groundwork, do your personal preparation, and prepare the students with pre-reading, fidget toys, and thought-provoking challenge questions that will make them excited to learn. Take the time to craft an environment that is ideal for growth.
- Try lots of variations – When it comes to seed, I’m never sure if I should get the product for full sun, shade, part sun, part shade, or hybrid lawns. I’m paralyzed with so many options, as I try to envision the amount of sun that different areas of the lawn receive. I liken it to trainers’ attempts to accommodate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles. No two areas of my yard are exactly alike, just as no two students are alike. After trying sun and shade seeds, I finally decided to get a mix, so I’ll have my bases covered. For lawns and learning, you can’t go wrong with a blended approach.
- Plant lots of seeds, but don’t overseed – This is tricky, you need to scatter enough see to start the growth, but not so much that nothing grows at all. As in training, if you bombard learners with too much information, nothing will stick. Understand when less is more and focus on whatever is most critical.
- Fertilize – I’ve learned that many grass seeds now come with fertilizer mixed in. Fertilizer promotes the growth and absorption of water by strengthening the roots of the grass. Teachers and trainers typically adopt a similar approach in growth mindset training. When introducing new material, they start by reinforcing current knowledge and building upon that. While growing new seed in bare areas, I remind myself to tend to the splotches of healthy grass, as well.
- Water – As you probably know well, grass needs water. A lot of it. As do our brains. Beyond hydrating our brains with water, however, we need to feed them with nutrition and stimulation. For teachers and trainers, nutrition takes many forms — stories, videos, experiences, exercises, games, practice, reading, writing, art, and music. Think of all the mediums that fuel you daily and consider how we pour that into our training efforts.
- Plant every year – Growing our minds and our grass is a long-term process that requires constant tending. The fact that I planted seed last year, doesn’t mean I’m off the hook this year. I recall the lawn care company I used several years ago charged for re-seeding, top-seeding, and fertilizing. They planned to come 5-6 times over the course of the summer to apply different treatments–in addition to the watering that I was tasked to do. I hope to grow grass on my own, but maybe I do need a lawn service after all.
When I look at my neighbors’ lawns, I realize I’m not alone. Living in a part of town that’s blessed with 100-year-old trees, scrappy yards are not the outliers. Still, I look enviously across the street, where the grass is always greener. My sister insists that irrigation is the key to a perfect lawn. I haven’t been able to get a garden company to give me a quote, but I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, I’ll also keep focusing on optimizing training and learning.
P.S. Metaphors can be incredible learning and processing tools. Introduce a photographic card deck to integrate metaphors into your wrap-up and reinforcement modules.
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