Sunday, January 16, 2011

Expect to Be Surprised

Take a close look at this picture from my classroom. See the orange bell pepper plant? With the ripe pepper ready to be picked? Ok, now look at the basket of books next to it...yes, the ones labeled Winter Books. This  pepper plant is a leftover from my summer garden. Not only will it not die, but it blossomed--in December! And then the pepper grew and ripened--in January!  And check this out:

Pieces of tomato--that grew from a volunteer plant that I found in the rocks at my house not anywhere near the tomato plants planted on purpose. I pried the roots from the rocks and stuck the plant in a pot with new soil and took it too school. It too has refused to die. My class picked and ate this tomato on Dec. 21. And guess what? The plant has more blossoms on it now. What makes it even more amazing is that these plants do not get the sunlight they should, are in an environment that's too chilly, and are watered intermittently. And yet they grow and produce fruit. I'm surprised they haven't died, let alone that they are producing something.

It occurred to me that a lot of my kids are like these plants. A lot of things in their lives are less than ideal. Some are downright hostile. But I've learned to expect surprises.

E. is not very confident in herself as a learner. She struggles despite working very hard. One day last week she stopped reading during reading group to point to the bold text in the book of the girl seated beside her. "No," E. said, "if you see those letters that look fat, you have to read it bigger with your voice. Like this." She quickly modeled and then went back to her copy of the book and continued reading--so did the other girl, now making sure to do as instructed by her friend. I sat quietly and savored the surprise. The next day, I asked E. to teach the rest of the group what she new about bold print. She ducked her head, then looked up and nodded, grinning widely.

There are moments like things happening in classrooms on a regular basis. And when we expect our kids to surprise us, we lift the level of what we believe is possible for them--in spite of the challenges they face. What a gift to our learners, and to ourselves as their teachers. I cannot imagine living my classroom life without the expectation that my kids will surprise me. Be ready for it...expect it.


  1. Wow -- what a great metaphor. Love the way your thinking stretches mine.
    the other ruth ;)

  2. Yes, 2 Wows!!! Vegetables and students both growing in a classroom!! How can that be???--a teacher is behind this!!!! Be sure to attach your blog to your teacher evaluation forms.