My Green Teacher

by Rabiah Na’Allah

Discover a few powerful reminders from plants that grow alongside us. 

Who knew something without a chalkboard and a grade book could be a teacher?

I just turned 20 and I feel like I should be doing more. I have this anxiety and dread that time is escaping me. I’m looking around the bedroom I grew up in, sleeping in the same bed I did when I was in 2nd grade. Memories of my past exist so clearly in my brain that I must remind myself I’m not that little girl anymore. Where did all the time go? 

For now, I turn to the little wooden table beside my bed. This table holds my three plants: basil leaves, pothos, and something pretty that I don’t know the name of. I didn’t think I could learn so much from something so small. But as I gaze at the green leaves, I am struck by the lessons I’ve learned from them:

  1. Every day there is growth. We may not be able to see it immediately, but there is growth.
  2. We need sunlight. Because the sun is always there, hiding or shining, we can take advantage of it. But we need the sun to live, to breathe, to see. Like plants do, we should bask in the sunlight more often.
  3. It’s good to wait. With plants, it takes a bit for them to grow sometimes. I thought I got a defective batch of basil seeds because I couldn’t see anything in the soil for days. Eventually, they sprouted, and I was happy I waited.
  4. Life is a cycle. There are good days and bad days. There are times when you’re young and times when you’re old. It’s the journey of life and each stage has its own beauty.
  5. Getting older doesn’t have to be scary. I saw when my pothos was the singular leaf I stuck in water to begin its propagation process. Now there are five leaves growing from the stem and it’s getting bigger. I am enjoying it and looking forward to its next stages.

At 20 years old, I’m entering a new decade of life where I don’t know if things are going to go as I think they will. I fear the unknown and have this worry that I’m wasting my youth. But I have my plants. They will continue to grow with me. They’ll remain on the table beside my bed, teaching me and brightening my space. I am learning these lessons from them, and I think I will be okay.

About Rabiah Na’Allah

Rabiah Na’Allah and is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Graphic Design and Cinema. She is from Peoria, Illinois, and the self-proclaimed middle child of three sisters. Rabiah is heavily involved in the University of Iowa Honors Program and serves as an Honors Outreach Ambassador and leader on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion council. She is involved in various organizations on campus including the Muslim Student Association, African Student Association and Student Advocates of Planned Parenthood. When she’s not working at school, you can find her doing photography, volunteering at a number of student productions through the Theater program, analyzing her favorite movies, or binge-watching Criminal Minds.

About Sophie Liu 

Sophie Liu is a senior at Dunlap High School who has won numerous art prizes such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Award and several honorable mentions. As someone who also values academics, business, and volunteering, she has participated in and led many activities in her community. Her volunteering contribution has awarded her the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is one of the club leaders of her school’s Interact Volunteering Club. During her summers, Liu has participated in several business camps such as Kelley Business’s Young Women’s Institute, where she has gained knowledge and experience in her passion. She also runs her own online art business where she creates commissioned art pieces and gains firsthand business experience. Liu plans to continue her love of business, volunteering, and art in college, where she will major in either Marketing or Business Analytics and minor in art.