Monday, June 12, 2017

The fruit that grows in the valley

Tea Crop Cameron Highlands
In late 2015, after completing a speaking engagement in Singapore, my husband and I took some time out to explore that country and neighbouring Malaysia, places neither of us had visited before. Part of our trip took us into the Cameron Highlands, a temperate region, which we found a huge relief after the heat of coastal Malaysia. We were fascinated by the Highlands as we drove through valley after valley, full of vegetable crops and fruit trees. What we learnt was that this area grows all the fruit and vegetables for Malaysia and Singapore. The fruit grows in the valley.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. The fruit that grows in the valleys of our lives. As I look back over my life I realise that my most character forming experiences have occurred in those periods of my life that I would describe as valleys.  Probably the deepest valley I have ever been in was when my 32 year old brother died of leukaemia. I certainly developed character during those times as we sort to live a life that was better not bitter as a result of this experience. As a teacher and a principal I went through many valley experiences but I know these shaped me into the educator that I am today.

None of us like going through valley experiences, those times when you have to bite your lip, or bite your tongue and hold back your tears. Those times when you are asked to put aside the things you know, maybe the things you believe in, and try a new approach, or work with someone or on something that doesn't fit well with your notion of who you are. We've all been there and I'm yet to meet anyone who likes it.

Which brings me to the learning pit...

Used with permission
Great schools that I have visited spend time talking with their students about the learning pit - that valley of confusion and struggle, that valley that if you can get through it will leave you a better person. I love the way Stonefields School illustrates it.

My wondering though is whether or not we as adults are as embracing and encouraging of the 'opportunity' of the learning pit for ourselves as we are in supporting our students as they go through the pit. How comfortable are with being uncomfortable? As we struggle with new ways of working do we remind ourselves that the 'learning pit' is part of the change process or do we grumble and moan, consoling ourselves with chocolate, whilst complaining to those around us about how unfair life has become?

But it is not only fruit that we find in valleys. At the bottom of most valleys we find rivers or streams - in fact valleys are formed by the water that flows through them. Water is a critical element to the fruit. Without it nothing grows. What is the water in your life? Is it your colleagues who support you through your growing pains, is it the books you read, the PLD you receive, the Facebook groups you belong to, or your loved ones at home. Whatever it is, take time to drink from this refreshing stream, as it will ensure that the fruit you are growing is luscious and can be enjoyed by many.

Getting back to Malaysia and the Cameron Highlands we stayed overnight in a place where the strawberries grew all year round. The conditions were so perfect that there were no seasons just lots and lots of fruit. If only our lives could be like that.

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