“Not all tomatoes are the same.” I look at students and see them so differently. They all have their own personalities and learning styles. Too many times I see classes where teachers want them all to fit the same mold, think the same things, write the same things, without using any imagination or creativity. Just like it is impossible to have tomatoes that are all the same sizes, flavors, and colors, it is impossible to think that we will have students all the same. We need to look at their individuality and help build on their strengths.
“Tomatoes require plenty of sun.” Students require a lot of nurturing, positive encouragement and good teaching. Without it, students will end up hating schools and learning. For years my husband hated learning because of his bad experiences in school. Once he found out how to help himself (through other support systems), he began to love reading textbooks on his own. If he hadn’t found a way to do this, I don’t think he would have been as successful as he has been. What about the students who are not able to do this?
“As for soil, they will grow in just about anything you throw at them.” Yes, students will learn something no matter what kind of class they are in but is that the best we want for them? Will they grow strong and tall or will they learn some things that may not be in their best interest? Maybe this is how gangs are formed. Maybe they will learn that they hate schools and books. We can’t control all of the things students may learn no matter how much schools and parents try.
“Uniform watering is the key to nice fruit.” Students need consistency. Discipline needs to be consistent in order for it to be effective. I have seen a teacher change her discipline plan every 2 weeks because nothing was working and then she would complain about the students. Well, she wasn’t being consistent if it was changing every 2 weeks!
“As your plants get larger, they will need to be staked in order to support the weight of the fruits as they begin to grow.” We need to support our students as they begin to grow. We need to encourage them as they explore and discover new learning. If it is things we don’t know about, we can help them by learning along side of them.
“DO NOT REFRIGERATE TOMATOES! Ever! Fresh tomatoes start to fall off the flavor wagon as soon as they go below 55°.” If we are supporting and nurturing our students, we can’t just abandon them when we are finished teaching them. I tell my students that once they enter my classroom, they become part of my family and even after they leave, I want them to keep in touch with me. I have tutored students who are no longer in my classroom so they can continue succeeding in others. I have been to weddings and their children’s birthdays years later. I think it is important to keep these connections as much as possible so students don’t feel I was insincere when I said I cared about their future.
So, I feel growing students is a lot like growing tomatoes. You can get tomatoes that fall off the stem before fully mature and ones that die of stem rot; or you can get tomatoes that are fully ripe and become the highlights of your vegetable garden. It is all about how you plant and grow them!
Photo credit: early june ripeness by greenhem