Documenting Growth

The garden metaphor is pretty common in education–you know, planting seeds and watching them germinate, grow, and eventually bloom.  And as a teacher who keeps her students for three years, I really do get to plant some of those seeds, watch them germinate, grow…and bloom–sometimes a year or two after they are planted.

One of the families in our class gave each of us a mason jar planted with a narcissus paperwhite bulb for Christmas with a note on the lid telling us to be sure to take the top off and water.  And since taking that top off three weeks ago, I’ve been watching that bulb.  It began by stretching roots down, filling the jar with stringy white texture.  And then green shoots began to emerge, quickly growing tall above the rim of the jar.

Earlier this week those tall shoots got taller than they had the strength to hold onto and bent over, startling me as I looked up and found the shoots looking down at me.  My handy husband found some old chopsticks and propped the shoots back upright.

Close examination over the last week revealed buds, and I checked daily to see if they were ready to open.  And today when I got home from my morning San Diego Area Writing Project Leadership Group meeting, I found that the blossom had opened.  And of course I had to get my camera out and take some photos to document the growth and capture the beauty.


I’m loving this still life, an unedited photo taken with my iPhone.  If you look closely you can see the blossom at the top and the one to the left that is getting ready to bloom.  (You can even see the chopstick props if you really look closely!)

Of course I also wanted to lean in and capture the detail with my macro lens.  The detail of the blossom is revealed by the magnification of the lens.  This is another unedited photo.


And sometimes it’s nice to get a different view.  In this shot I used the regular iPhone lens and then brought the image into Camera+ to crop and enhance. I like the effect and how it emphasizes how the shoot changes as it gets close to the blossom.


I’ve enjoyed documenting the growth of this bulb through my photography.  It also has me thinking about how we document our students’ growth…and how they keep track of their own growth.  We keep samples of students’ work and have them reflect on their own learning, encouraging them to notice, stretch, and build on what they have learned.

My photographs document my growth as a photographer.  I can see how my composition has improved and as I examine my photos I make plans to try new techniques.  I seek out mentors on other blogs and on other internet sites.

We plan to start our students blogging next week.  We began blogging last year…figuring out how this might work with young students as we worked through each step of the way.  We’ve let the blogs idle as we established our classroom community and let our first graders develop some fluency and confidence with writing.

As we get ready to restart our blogging, I want to think about student blogs as documentation of learning…as portfolios of growth over time. And I want to capture snapshots of their growth like I have with the paperwhites, documenting their progress and their process over time.  Maybe the blogs will be like my camera lens…

4 thoughts on “Documenting Growth

  1. Janis

    Beautiful photos! I have a question about student blogs. Ann and I are starting edublogs with a group of her students. In fact, we showed them a few of your student’s blogs as mentor texts. (Come to think of it we should have commented.) We will definitely have them do that as soon as we are up and running. I have one question for you. We haven’t sent home any kind of parent permission slip. How do you handle that?

    1. kd0602 Post author

      Thanks! I’m really loving my “still life” photo!

      Last year we informed parents through our newsletter, reassuring them that we were moderating all the blogs (both posts and comments). We had no issues at all. We do have a very open community and talk with parents on a regular basis, addressing concerns as they occur. I know that Janet has a series of permissions that she uses at the middle school.

  2. Jessica & Mallory

    Love this blog entry and the lovely photos! Mallory and I are so excited to see that the paperwhites bloomed for you. – Jessica


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