Thursday, August 19, 2010
When to Pick the Apples
Many teachers grow tired of the phrase, "an apple for the teacher." I have received my share of apples over the years, and when I get one, there is a certain comfort that comes along.
I think I am coming to understand my own personal connection to the apple. It may be your connection too.
Before bearing fruit, an apple tree can take years to develop and mature. There are so many varieties, many of which are grafted and engineered to make flavors like pink ladies or pineapples, (yes, there is an apple called pineapple). Some are even engineered to grow sooner but are pruned and grown in such a way described as “training the tree.” They are dwarf apple trees that can fruit just after a year of being planted in the ground (search for a tutorial on YouTube), but their process is still more challenging than say a bean plant. It takes care, nurturing, and patience for someone who is just interested in an apple. The same characteristics I hope to emulate everyday to my family, students and colleagues.
I began thinking about the apple trees in my backyard. It is my understanding that the property my house rests on used to be an apple orchard and four-five apple trees were left to stand in the yard alongside the walnut, butternut and hickory trees. The apples that grow in my yard are left to chance; they must rely solely on the limbs holding them and nature to sustain them. Many become deer feed, and the ones we do pick to cut into and investigate in fall are usually immature, bruised, and worse for wear. It got me wondering, how is this any different than the children I teach each day, week, year? Many of them come immature, bruised and worse for wear. I certainly wouldn’t want to throw them out for the deer, but that is the metaphorical fate of some in this world of ours. If I think of my students as a developing apple, is it possible to then be too late to make a difference? What purpose would I have?
So, maybe my students are not the apples, but maybe they are the trees themselves awaiting my care, nurturing and patience. Maybe those little apples that grow are in fact more like the connections we make as we grow and experience the world. We don’t need to wonder when an apple is ready to be picked; we just need to take care of the tree. I hope to water and warm the little minds of many this year and help them grow lots of apples and develop into wonderful people.