Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lima Bean

I recently clicked on a link someone posted on Facebook that shared Captain Beefheart's espoused "10 Commandments of Guitar-Playing." Low on the list I read this statement,
"Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow."

It has "bean" with me everyday since! (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!)

I guess, first of all, it reminded me of the 40+ Ziploc bags taped to a classroom window each Spring. Each day of the experiment I was privileged to watch the excited faces of five- and six-year-old children as they bounded into the classroom to see if their bean had sprouted. 

Of course we always had the “control” beans that were kept in the dark. I remember one student who was in tears because she felt sorry for the beans in the dark that didn’t get to sprout like hers. She was so distraught that we eventually had to let them out into the light!

Aside from this memory, which serves to remind me how much I miss teaching, I’ve also been considering this statement as a metaphor for my experience as a doctoral student in which I’m the bean. Fortunately, I’m not in the control group lying in the dark (although it feels like it at times). I’ve been wrapped up in the wet paper towel of study. It’s often sticky and it causes my outer shell of confidence and purpose to crack and peel. Yet, at times, I feel a sprout of success pop up. I can feel the warmth of the sunlight coming through the window and I catch a glimpse of the vine that will someday be mine. Until that day, I will be thankful for the wet paper towel and baggie that serve to germinate my growth. 

By the way, if you would like to sprout your own lima bean, click here or here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Fly or Get By”

While reading the book, “Language Stories & Literacy Lessons,”* I was struck by a section on risk-taking. These researchers found that 3- and 4-year-old children were more “aggressive language learners” as they boldly tested their hypotheses about language use (reading and writing)...essentially to “make literacy fly” not just “get by” (p. 139). The result is that they “get themselves into more trouble, and...are more successful than their older, wiser, and more cautious literate friends” (pp. 139-140).

We’ve all heard the motivating story of Thomas Edison and his numerous failed attempts at inventing the incandescent light bulb. He’s heralded for not giving up, for letting nothing stand in his way of success! He once said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”** We all applaud and echo, “Yes! Never give up, never surrender!” (Don’t you just love Galaxy Quest?) Yet, when it comes to our own lives, risk-taking is less applauded. Possibly we are deterred by the fact that no one writes of the courage and braveness of those in the pursuit who have not attained success. Imagine the reporter in Edison’s lab after his 122nd failed attempt. Would that journalist have proclaimed him as a genius?
As I think about this new adventure, my journey to a Ph.D., I don’t feel much different than those 3- and 4-year-olds or Thomas Edison when it comes to risk-taking. I’m immersed in newness! Newness of thought, newness of reading, newness of writing. At times I throw myself into writing or research and come out on the other side with not much more than scribbles on the paper. Yet, I choose to celebrate each scribbling! I seek out people to provide input on how I can improve because I know that with each scribbling, I’m that much closer to success!
*Harste, J. C., Woodward, V. A., & Burke, C. L. (1984). Language stories & literacy lessons.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.