I’ve always loved flowers. When I lived in Virginia, I would often stop and smell the roses growing near my apartment complex. Now that I’m in Michigan, I enjoy watching the fields of tulips bloom every spring. So, a few months ago I decided to break the quarantine drab and buy a flower for my work desk. I wanted something that would brighten my day as I started work each morning.
Unfortunately, I bought an orchid. Those of you who know flowers know orchids are incredibly temperamental. By the time I realized my mistake, the blossoms had all crumpled and the stem hardened into a dead little stalk. I wanted to throw the whole thing out in disgust, but the leaves were still alive, so I reluctantly kept watering it. That’s how things went for a while, me carefully watering a plant that seemed determined to die.
Then something extraordinary happened; the orchid grew.
Learning to Cultivate
As an educator, I can’t help but see the parallels between students and my stubborn little flower. We often make the mistake of thinking students will move at the pace we desire. We’ll teach a specific lesson, test them on the information, and expect to move on. But in reality, students are like flowers. Some will grow instantly while others need time and assistance.
The key is to just keep watering. Had I given up on my stubborn orchid I would never have seen the amazing growth it was capable of. Similarly, if we allow our frustration to get in the way of connecting with a struggling student, we’ll miss the opportunity to help a talented mind flourish. With COVID-19 radically changing how we teach; patience and perseverance have never been more necessary. After all, most flowers experience a lot of change before they bloom.
A Little Fertilizer
Here are a few strategies you can try implementing in your class:
- Challenge students creative and critical thinking by asking them to describe a concept in 5 words or less.
- When some students seem to provide an answer or explanation more quickly than others, routinely ask those fast finishers to find another way to get that answer.
- Up the fun over Zoom by playing charades to get students thinking about key concepts from any subject area.
- Have students fill out reflection journals as they consider new ideas, questions, and wonderings.
- Have students build cooperation by interviewing one another over Zoom. You could even have them represent a current person/thing related to the current topic.
In this year of adversity, encourage your students to plant deep roots. Practice persistence and don’t allow the challenges of distance learning to distract you from a student’s ability to learn. Every kid in your classroom has the potential to be a positive force for good (yes, we do mean every kid!) All you need to do is stay calm and just keep watering!