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Slow Signs of Growth
  • Formation
  • Nature
Jordan Rhea

During the week of spring equinox, my PreK class propagated a pothos plant. They each took turns cutting a leaf from the mother plant, and they placed it in a cup with some water. Since then, the students have been deeply invested in the growth of their baby pothos’ roots. The first week brought some deep concern from my little plant parents. A handful of cuttings had small roots that appeared quickly. Their respective parents were immensely proud. However, many were slow to show signs of growth, and the students to which those belonged were saddened and worried. “Why doesn’t mine have roots yet? What’s wrong with my plant baby?”  

In response, we had conversations about different variables that affect a plant’s growth. Some are controllable variables, like the amount of water or the plant’s proximity to the light. We manipulated those things to best help spark growth on all of the cuttings. However, there are other variables that are not controllable. Some cuttings had larger leaves, while others were small. Some had two leaves, while others had one. Some had thick stems and multiple nodes where roots could grow from, while others had thinner stems with a single node. All of these things can affect the growth rate of the plant. However, I assured them, the importance and the goodness of your plant isn’t found in its growth rate. It’s found in its life, in its present existence. 

And so, the students continued to love their plant babies. They did not feel embarrassment of disappointment in their plants for being slower than others. They did not give up on their plant or assume that it would never be the next, better, more improved version of itself. They cared for their plant. They checked on it daily. They filled the water up as their plant drank. They made sure it had proximity to light. And they waited.  

This experience is reminiscent of the Frog and Toad story where Toad plants a garden and attempts to spur its growth by yelling, “NOW SEEDS, START GROWING!” This is a part that makes all audiences chuckle because of its absurdity. And yet, how easy it is for us to get drawn into that message with children. Children are different. Different brains, different needs, different desires, interests, struggles, talents. And no one says their value and goodness is found in their growth rates. Their value is found in the fact that they are living images of God.

And so, what we as teachers are called to do is exactly what my PreK students did. We change the controllable variables to best serve the child. But we also simply attend to the child in their present state. We stay invested and check on them daily. We provide consistent nourishment. And we wait because their present state is already good.  

It's been three weeks, and every student has a little plant that has sprouted roots. Some have bigger roots than others. Some have more roots than others. But my Westernized tilt toward progression and growth is consistently quelled by a class full of children who unconditionally love their plant babies, and little plants that are unconditionally loved and seen as good in each stage of their lives.