To empower educators to cultivate wellbeing and build resilience to be their best personally, professionally, and in their communities.
WHY THE MARIGOLD?
The positive impact of companion planting and the marigold effect related directly to schools is explained beautifully by Jennifer Gonzalez. Her advice for teachers to find their Marigolds was the catalyst for this organization. The original article that inspired it all can be found here.
Marigold Flowers nurture their neighboring plants by protecting them from harmful factors and encouraging them to flourish. Marigold educators follow the same beautiful pattern by strengthening one another through a shared, infectious passion for growth. Marigolds bring out the best in each other by sharing fresh perspectives and showing up as their true selves. The Marigold Force was originally created for teachers, but we've learned that it's truly for everyone. We all need Marigolds in our lives to help us bloom.
I was NOT one of those people that knew they wanted to be a teacher their whole life. I didn’t know what I wanted. I was always “good” at school. I got excellent grades, I followed the directions, and I worked hard. None of this was because I loved learning. It was because I followed the rules and did what I was told. When I went to college I had a limited idea of what I could do and be. Any degree in science or engineering was off the table. I always thought I was one of those kids that were just bad at science. I also thought I was a terrible writer and horrible at anything artistic. See ya later graphic designer, journalist, and author.
In my mind, I had three options...teaching, nursing, and physical therapy. Many of the women in my family were teachers. They all loved teaching, so I thought I would give it a go. Blood also makes me queasy, so nursing wasn’t really an option.
And as I’m writing this story again, it’s different from the story I put on our website a few years ago. I’ve learned more about myself and the systems I was a part of. I often wonder what it would be like to go back and go through the school system again with the same love of learning and curiosity I developed as a 24-25-year-old adult. I didn’t understand how exhilarating learning truly was. I just did whatever I was “supposed” to do based on society. That’s an entire discussion in itself.
After five years at the University of Minnesota, I had earned my Master’s in Education, and I went into the workforce. Man, was it HARD. I had read the statistics, and it was discussed in the college courses but I had no idea until I was in it. I was floored by the necessity for impenetrable mental and emotional resilience when I first started teaching. I expressed what many teachers report feeling: overworked, frustrated, and under-supported. I also experienced what many teachers struggle with, but don’t realize until they make it to the other side… an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Every year thousands of teachers leave the profession. Reasons vary but the majority of teachers I’ve known have left because they had to choose between quality of life and their teaching job.
In 2014 I struggled with the decision to leave teaching altogether and be part of the burnout statistic or take one more gallant effort. I chose to stay, but I moved to Guatemala to work in a different education system. This choice and the space I created by leaving behind everything I knew was just the beginning of years of personal growth that brought me to where I am today. Being outside of the public school system and the societal norms of the United States changed me profoundly.
I learned that no number of training, resources, or supports would make me a more resilient or satisfied teacher. A strong mind, body, and spirit were the key to unlocking the passion for teaching that I have today. Through yoga, running, being in nature, meditating, reading books, listening to podcasts and the list goes on I learned tools and habits to grow my physical, mental and emotional resiliency. After nearly 2 years in Guatemala, I took a teaching job back in Minnesota, but I guarded the new version of myself and the lessons I learned fiercely.
Changing and maintaining deeply rooted habits and rewiring your brain is extremely difficult work. It’s near impossible to do this work alone, especially in a society that glorifies long hours and productivity. So I surrounded myself with people who are working towards the same resiliency, balance, and happiness I am. I like to call these my Marigolds. My partner Joel just happens to be one of my nearest and dearest Marigolds! You’ll hear his story next.
After reflecting on my relatively newfound contentedness in the teaching profession The Marigold Force came to fruition! This personal type of development doesn’t exist in most work-places. So I approached Joel with a business plan, and the rest is history! We’ve been learning and growing and letting The Marigold Force become what the world needs it to become. All I want is for more people to feel peace and vibrancy in who they truly are. Then they can show up as their badass selves in their relationships, jobs, and communities!
I was always surrounded by Marigolds. I just didn't know it.
When I first started teaching I was not good. Okay, I was bad. I was really bad. I am not shaming myself by saying that I was bad. I really was that bad. Being that bad teacher really took its toll on my emotional wellbeing and waning resilience.
My first three years of teaching were in Bogotá, Colombia in the heart of the capital - blocks from the President's house. I used to walk around the block repeatedly before teaching for the day. I was exhausted from doing so many things that didn't work for me or my students. I felt scared that I wasn't going to make it through my first years of teaching. And, I was unable to tap into the gifts that I knew I had. But like I said, Marigolds have always been around me.
A Marigold teacher is someone who gets teaching and life. Get that you have to work smartly so that you can protect your wellbeing and only use those resilience skills when you absolutely need them. Thankfully, I had a Marigold teacher in my corner. I had a mentor teacher who checked in on me and would not give up on me. She was eager to listen and support me while also giving me firm feedback on how I was pretending to be a teacher I was not. She led me to become the teacher that I already had inside of me.
After Colombia, I taught in Spain. And, guess what? More Marigolds. Then Wisconsin. Sure enough, more Marigolds. Then Minnesota. And, of course! More. Marigolds. Then Illinois. And, you're seeing the pattern. Marigolds all around me.
But somewhere along my teaching path, I noticed something. I was a Marigold.
I finally understood teaching. It was my art, not merely my act. I worked smartly. I protected my wellbeing. I was resilient! Furthermore, I was fighting for the well-being of teachers around me. I was that Marigold for others.
When my husband and I moved back to Minnesota and started teaching at Woodcrest Spanish Immersion, I immediately was drawn to my now Co-Rebel, Jessie Kolz. I knew that she would need a Marigold in her life. I became a Marigold for her.
Within that first year, I saw her teaching practice shift into the greatness it is now. Because she had a Marigold in her life, she built up the emotional, physical, mental, and social resilience needed to be one of the "it" teachers.
(You know the teachers that kids swarm around like bees to...marigolds.)
The best part? Jessie also became a Marigold to me and to so many teachers around her. Together, we became a Force at our school.
Jessie came to my classroom one day and said, "I have an idea. I think we need to turn this into something bigger than just us and our school."
The Marigold Force was born.
(And if you are a parent, you understand that nothing is ever "just born". Trust us, there is so much that goes into starting a high-functioning business while still being a full-time teacher or instructional coach!)
We now surround ourselves with Marigolds every day. And you're invited to join the club!