June 18, 2024


International Student Club UK

Don’t Forget to Water the Garden – George Couros

Don’t Forget to Water the Garden – George Couros

One of the things that I have learned as I get older is how much I don’t know.

I am not as adamant about certain things as I once used to be, and I try to be as open to new learning as possible.

But there are certain beliefs where I won’t budge. 

For example, I believe relationships are the core of what we do in education.

I also see them as a starting point rather than an end goal.  If you are all about relationships but do not value the importance of moving further, and helping yourself and others grow in learning, what is the point of building them in the first place? 

Trust is necessary so that people know they are supported when they are pushed.  That is why the relationship is crucial.

The other thing I am adamant about is that education is about helping students find a pathway to success that is meaningful to them.

That statement is the “North Star” for my work, but I am always open to how we get there.  I have ideas on what I believe about learning, but I think that educators, schools, and communities closest to kids have to figure out their own solutions.  What works for one community might be different in another.  The same is true for individual learners at all levels.

I share all of this because I believe it is essential to growing in our learning as we seek those solutions.  I love the following John Maxwell quote.



Recently, I was leading a workshop, and I could feel some contentiousness about what I was sharing from one of the participants.  As I was speaking, I saw a hand raise, and to me, it seemed that no matter what I was saying, the person was waiting for their chance to share their thoughts before listening to mine.  I asked them to hold on for a second until I finished.

After finishing what I was sharing, I called on this person, and they seemingly shared a question that was more of a statement, like a combative form of the TV show Jeopardy.  I started to provide a response to the question asked, but then I caught myself and asked, “Before I answer your question, are you open to what I am about to share, or have you already made up your mind?”

They responded, “Definitely, I am open to your answer…I have a growth mindset.” 

I have to tell you that it was delivered in a sarcastic tone, so I am not sure their response was accurate.  I then provided my thoughts, thanked them for the question, and moved on to conversations with others in the room.

It is imperative to understand that although the interaction felt very contentious, I have no bad feelings toward this educator.  I know nothing about them other than that interaction, and we all have bad days or even lines we need to draw in our personal and professional thinking.  That’s fine and sometimes even understandable. 

But I moved on because I knew a ton of people in that room who wanted to wrestle, not necessarily agree with, the ideas I was sharing that day. 

In the past, I would have focused on “winning” an argument and trying to convince the person of something they might not want to have been convinced of, at least on that day.  But that approach was more about my ego (I had to win) rather than helping kids.  

We are often guilty of spending time on the 10% of people in our lives, professional or personal, who are not open to growth.

So what happens to the other 90%?

We often ignore them, and the thing they thirst for most (growth) is what we don’t provide.


We can often become focused on trying to water the sidewalk while ignoring the needs of the garden.


That’s what I often got caught up in doing.

As I said earlier, I know that there is so much I don’t know.  But I want to learn.  I want to get better.

To me, that goal is better achieved by having conversations with those trying to grow.  Not those that agree with what I say but are open to it and their own development.  In the last few years, I have gone out of my way to read and consume things with which I disagree, not only to better understand the thoughts of others but to better refine my own.  If I don’t understand the counter-argument to my words, then maybe I don’t even understand my own line of thinking.  And if I am not willing to move on with my thinking when presented with new evidence, then I am more focused on being “right” rather than getting better.

If we want to help students, we must never assume that we (or others) have all the answers but that we are willing to find them together.  We will all encounter moments and people who are maybe not open to new ideas on any given day.  That is okay, and I have been that person and probably will be again. 

Just don’t ignore those who crave growth to become better.

I know many who have left organizations because they felt stagnated in their growth because they wanted to move forward, while attention and energy were expended to help those who might only want to stand still.

Don’t forget to water the garden.