The thorny, prickly tree

Phyllis Farias

A tiny seed decided to find its home in our small patch of garden. It took root and soon we had a thorny bush with dark green leaves. Riaz, our driver, asked whether he should pull it out as the thorns hurt everyone who passed down the narrow path. I told him to smell the leaves, and yes, it dawned on him that we had a lime tree growing in our garden. And now, began the wait for the tree to grow and bear fruit.

A year passed and another, and another – still no fruit. Passing by my son’s flat, I found that his neighbour had a small lime tree, growing in a pot, sparse leaves, yet laden with fruit. A contrast and comparison, – and I told Riaz to cut our tree down. He said, let’s trim the branches and wait just a little while more. And while doing so, lo and behold! he spotted a lime, and looking through the thick foliage, we found many more. The tree is now laden with flowers and fruits.

Is there a lesson or lessons here that we can learn from, especially for us teachers? The seed chose my patch of garden to fall on – I did not choose it.

As teachers, children are dropped into our classrooms. We are called to accept each child – whether a sweet mango, a sour lime or a bitter gourd.

The seed took root and thrived. It was nurtured with water, sunlight, an occasional manuring and a painful pruning from time to time. Every child should feel accepted, loved and thrive under our care. And this can only happen with joyful and child-centric methodology, a safe classroom, with doses of unconditional acceptance of the personality of each child. The painful pruning in the form of discipline becomes necessary allowing a child to grow up with the right values.

The third important lesson was to have patience for the fruit and not to give up on the tree. Children learn in different ways and grasp things differently. And therefore every child has to be given the chance and opportunity to blossom and learn in their own way. The onus lies on the teacher to teach the way the child learns. The most important lesson being that no child should ever be given up on. Can I dare to fight for the child, whom everyone has given up on?

And then the comparison with another lime tree, almost leading to my wanting to chop down mine. Do we chop down our children to the ground or to size, just because they do not match up to the other ‘good’ children in learning or behaviour? Let’s not destroy any child with comparisons and unrealistic expectations.

The lime tree is full of thorns that can really prick and hurt. Of course there are children who are prickly and full of thorns. In the words of educator Bryan Pearlman, “Seek out students that use unkind words, disrupt the learning of others and make poor choices. Tell them that you love and care about them. You have no idea how much this can positively impact them. It may be the only nice thing they’ve heard from an adult all week!’

And as you see in the photograph, the first lime in all its beauty was worth waiting for.

The author is a Bangalore based educational consultant, trainer and counsellor. She can be reached at [email protected].

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