I’ve been pretty obsessed with weeds over the last few weeks. These much maligned plants are resilient, tenacious, and often quite beautiful…traits I admire.
On my way home from work today I noticed that the greenhouses I passed were ablaze with color, so I pulled off the road, parked and walked to take a closer look and a few pictures. And on my way I noticed this weed growing along the cement wall in a crack between the sidewalk and the wall.
When I got home I noticed that today’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge was reflection…and instead of thinking about the many photos I take of literal reflections (mostly involving water), my mind immediately went to this photo of a dandelion weed growing in the crack of a sidewalk.
I’ve reflected on many aspects of weeds in the last couple of weeks: their beauty, the role of a negative label, and about things that we see as expendable. Every time I see a weed I find myself thinking about its positive qualities…and wondering if a particular plant is seen as a weed depending on the context. After I photographed the dandelion weed I also noticed the salty susans growing wild in the dirt where the sidewalk stopped. I wondered…are these weeds or are they native plants? And really, what is the difference? If these yellow blossoms were in the crack of the sidewalk would that make them a weed?
And as I finished my parent-student-teacher conferences today I was thinking about the qualities the educational establishment values in learners. What about the students who don’t quite fit the profile of the ideal learner?
I heard a piece on the radio this morning about the rate of suspension and expulsion in schools of students of color…and know that there is no reasonable explanation for these statistics. These children are being seen as “weeds” in the system, intentionally or unintentionally, and this has to change. How we talk about kids and how we define success plays a huge role in the ways kids are treated in schools and other contexts. Plucking them out is not a viable solution…and there’s plenty of research to support that premise.
I think the answer lies in broadening our definitions of school success. I also think we need to consider what we expect of students. Do we want them to sit quietly or do we want them to learn? Is reading from a textbook or listening to lectures the best pathway to learning? How do we support students in finding their own experiences in the content we teach? What environments do we cultivate to encourage the growth of students who are quite different from each other? How do we engage families and learn from them and with them about their children?
For me, weeds are an object of reflection…and of fascination. And they generate question after question for me to consider as I strive to improve my teaching practice.
And watch out…I might just have an entire garden full of weeds one of these days!