Motivation: Teaching In The Mud Garden

Adapted by Azeezah Jameelah Mohamed Mohideen (

Having just left a weekly meeting during which absolutely nothing was accomplished, I was feeling woefully uninspired as I fought my way back to my classroom. I felt like a fish swimming upstream through the throngs of students loitering in the halls.

My classroom was mysteriously and mercifully devoid of students, leaving me a few moments to think before the day began. Then, I saw it: I shall teach / in a mud garden / under rhythm. Someone had written this short poem on the whiteboard in my classroom.

I read it a few times to be sure that my eyes were not deceiving me. Two thoughts raced through my mind at once.

Thought 1: One of my apathetic, disaffected students had actually written something - something intriguing and somewhat clever to boot!

Thought 2: What does this mean?

I was delighted to have the first period free to uncover the meaning of this piece of anonymous poetry. I pondered over each and every detail and nuance.

I shall teach ... Well, yes, I shall. No mystery there.

Under rhythm ... Well, this student was on to something. Teaching does have its own rhythm and each teacher has his or her own.

In a mud garden ... Is this how this student imagined school to be? We were not a rural school and had neither mud nor a garden. I was stumped.

Mud garden ... mud garden ... mud garden. And then I realised it. School is exactly that: a mud garden! A garden has tremendous potential but takes a great deal of cultivation characterised by patience, nurturing, care and gentleness. Given all these “nutrients”, the garden will grow and flourish into something lovely and prosperous from an itsy bitsy seed. Neglecting one’s garden can turn it to mud and make the garden lie fallow. Like a garden, schoolchildren require care, love and nurturing so that they do not turn to mud.

The door to my classroom swung open and my students began to pour in. They took their seats and got settled, borrowing pens from one another and searching for their assignments.

“Good morning!” I began. “Who can tell me what a metaphor is?”

Adapted from: Garran, D. (2005). Teaching in the mud garden. Retrieved January 18, 2010, from

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As a tutor, I believe that I can help learners to create learning spaces by:

Encouraging them to think independently by giving them short essay tests
Encouraging them to work as a group
Adding variety to the assignments and encouraging them to think from a different perspective
Ensuring that the tutorial room is always conducive for the learners
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