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Remember to sit under your own fig tree


"Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid"...a line of words woven together with musical accompaniment and crisp voices that have been traveling through my Amazon Echo while I have been working on various projects this summer, has resonated with me, in personal and professional projects.

The line comes from the book of Micah in the Bible and George Washington used the line multiple times when he would speak about the need for the colonies to break free from England's control. He wanted to stress the importance of unity, but at the same time, the need for independence and individual reflection. As I move towards a new professional journey I can't help but think of the ways this line will resonate with me over the next academic year. I also can't help but think about how this resonates with the moves towards 1:1 in schools across our region, state, and country.

Multiple Biblical and scholarly articles discuss how the fig tree (or rather the fig leaf) is meant to symbolize the act of covering something up that is distasteful or embarrassing. Other articles detail how the fig tree was used as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. These two references contradict each other, but at the same time share an understanding of performance or rather, how we are preoccupied with how we are viewed by others.

Earlier in the summer I worked with a select group of adults who are working towards becoming educational specialist teacher interns in the local school districts. I was hired to give them an overview of how G Suite works and coach them on various ways to use and implement technology in the classroom. For some, my technology class was a breeze, but for others it was an internal struggle that brought on tears, frustration, and shutting down.

As I worked with these adults and coached them through the emotional hurdles they encountered, I would sit down and conference with them to determine what was at the heart of the emotion I was seeing in class. I would hear phrases like, "I am just not good at this," or "I am too old to be learning this," or "I am afraid I won't ever be good like my son/daughter...they're so fast with technology."

It was in those moments when I would start to hear "sit under my own vine of the fig tree and not be afraid," in the voice of George Washington from Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. These amazing teachers to be needed to take a break from the messages their critical selfs were sending them and go sit under their fig tree to pause and reflect about what was best for them. They needed to stop comparing their abilities and learning speeds to the other students in their cohort. They needed to start focusing on what was working and what they were learning and/or had just learned in the high intensity crash course I was throwing at them.

In the time of reflection, I would start to see their bodies relax and that was when I told them to "be kind to yourself" - "you're learning what took me three years to learn, in four sessions."

The fig as a symbol of shame or embarrassment coupled with the fig tree as a symbol of wealth or prosperity embody this deep seeded habit we all have and continue to feed: judging ourselves and our abilities against others. Judging ourselves against others is actually healthy in some ways because it inspires us to refine skills or challenge ourselves. However, when we judge ourselves against another because of fear of embarrassment or we judge ourselves against another because we think we are better than them, we not only harm ourselves, but our cohort, students, or community of learners.

We need to remember we are only human and we are not perfect. We need to remember that when learning a new skill like how to create badges in Drawing or add transitions in Slides, we are doing just that, learning. Our openness to making mistakes or trying something new knowing we will fail the first time, is what will bring us closer to our best self. We need to go sit under our fig tree and not be afraid to fail forward and grow our world of learners around us.