Saturday, May 28, 2011

Orchids and Dandelions

I read an article recently that used the metaphor of flowers to describe resiliency in children. Dandelion children are those children that thrive no matter the circumstances. They could have every conceivable card stacked against them, yet they persevere. They push on and succeed. They "make it". Then we have the orchid children. These are our delicate flowers. They actually have the potential to thrive; it's possible. The circumstances must always be right for them. They must be in the right environment, with the right families in the right school, with the right teacher, etc. If all of those elements are a good fit they will not just thrive, but blossom with unspeakable beauty.

This whole analogy got me thinking, of course about education. If  a child is a plant, well then a district must be the greenhouse. It is the framework, the foundation, the housing. What kind of greenhouse do we have? How is it set up? What kinds of plants does it best cultivate? Certainly not orchids, that's for sure. Oh we may have raised some beautiful orchids, but that is clearly not a testament to the greenhouse, but rather some very focused care-takers, gardeners. They are an amazing breed, the gardener whose job is more of a passion rather than a means of income. They wake early to be there to measure the sun,  and only leave when their job is complete. They study the plants, measure their progress and adjust accordingly. They are vigilant in their quest for growth. They will not rest until every plant has had an opportunity to succeed. They know when to take a plant out of the greenhouse, let it bask in the sun. They know when to adjust the elements. Most importantly, they talk to their plants; they care for them. If there is something they do not know, they simply learn it. This is their craft, their love. Of course there are those gardeners that simply arrive on time, water, feed, maybe weed, and leave. If they happen to raise a successful orchid, then its luck of the draw.They do not go above, nor beyond, and they follow their job description to the letter.

Its actually comical that these higher level gardeners continue to show up and religiously perfect their craft. Comical, because they are also the very ones who bear the weight of the greenhouse. When a fungal infection occurs, no one looks at the greenhouse. They don't look for new methods of ventilation, or any other way to solve the problem. They simply blame the gardeners. The gardeners weren't attentive enough, they didn't give all plants a uniform feeding schedule. or they didn't follow instructions with complete fidelity. Maybe the gardeners have not done enough additional reading on the subject, maybe they do not work hard enough. People make grandiose commitments to evaluate the substandard gardeners, to assess their knowledge. Why don't people ever look at the greenhouse? More often than not their windows are rusted shut, maybe they don't even have a ventilation system. Without that all living things suffocate. If a gardener used a pesticide, it could not only kill the gardener but all of the other plants too. The air becomes dank, stagnant with chemicals. Yet no one looks for a way to bring in air. I mean who needs air right? Its amazing really. Amazing how easy it is to miss the most obvious answer.

Yes some plants survive in this rigid, restrictive environment. That's all they do. They survive. Yet somehow the educational community is proud of that. What would happen if we changed our perspective completely? What would happen if we judged our system not on the children that survive and succeed, but the ones that do not? How many of our schools or districts would fall short? How many would struggle to meet the changing needs of the orchids? How many would successfully cultivate orchids? I for one, am certain that were the criteria by which we evaluated schools, one of the best orchid schools in Ventura county would not be closing.

On a coincidental side note: I've been raising orchids in my kitchen window for almost a decade. I know I've been neglecting them, because life has been crazy. I had not idea how bad it was, only three are still alive.:(

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