Friday, July 27, 2012

Fruitful Reflections on Learning

Earlier this week, I ventured to a local blueberry farm to pick some blueberries. What a great day to have been outside. It wasn't easy picking today as the farmer sent us out to a section of the field that had obviously already been picked over. Nonetheless, it offered me lots of time for reflection.

In my previous post I also wrote about perseverance. Let me tell you, picking blueberries definitely tested my perseverance. The berries were harder to find than usual and the plants were short, which meant for lots of crouching and kneeling. My knees ached, my shoulders were sore and there were a number of times where I felt like calling it a day and simply buying some ready-picked berries from the stand. But I had committed to picking a boxful and I wasn't going to leave until I had finished. Now, what is the connection to education? When students arrive at reasonable and manageable challenges, we must demand they persevere to the point of completion. On the other hand, we must not criticize their lack of perseverance when they lack the skills and ability necessary to complete certain challenges.

I observed blueberries of all different colours. sizes, shapes and other unique characteristics. Some were very ripe and barely required my helping in falling off the bush. Others were nowhere near ripe and even with a gentle tug resisted falling off the bush. Again, how does this relate to education you ask? Each of our students is unique in his or her own special way. And much like berries, each of them matures and develops at his or her own pace. As educators, it is our responsibility to judge each student's development and gently pull them on to new challenges when the time is right.

Look Beyond the Obvious
Initially, it was discouraging not to find berries very easily. But I quickly learned that when I took a moment to look under some branches and peel back some leaves that there were many ripe berries to be found. I believe this is another important lesson for each of us who works with children. Rather than making judgments and assumptions about children based on what we see them demonstrate on the surface, it's important that we make the effort to get to know our students, find out who is truly behind the eyes we see on a daily basis and recognize each student's individual abilities and potential.

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