Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Can less be more in an age of abundance?

| 22 Comments

Reading Time: 1 minutes

I’m biting off more than I can chew. I know it. I can’t help it. I will one day learn to say no. I will. Just not yet.

I learned the hard metaphorical way. Our uni has this fun thing where we can, in groups of 2-5 have a small plot of land to grow veggies. I thought it’d be a cool team-building thing and so I got one with an interesting team who all know me well, but not each other (my new co-worker, an old friend from college, and another prof i have worked with for a while). It was my turn to visit and check on our plants and saw this wonderful sight (the green bean plants):

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Looks great, right?

WRONG!

Apparently, we’ve planted too many seeds too close to each other, and if we leave it like that, NONE OF THEM WILL GROW TO MATURITY. Or so the experts say.

And so, he helped me through the traumatizing experience of removing almost half the plants and spacing them out so each would have enough room to grow and get nourished by the soil.

There’s a not-so-subtle lesson for me here, i’m just not ready to learn it yet even though it’s staring me right in the face!

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22 Comments

  1. @Bali_Maha we have a family saying… I resemble that remark 🙂

    via twitter.com

  2. Less is more is my theory on blog posts in general. 🙂

    I have learned this garden lesson several times (and keep repeating it, so what does that tell you?). I, too have trouble culling baby plants. I guess that’s a good thing for a teacher.

    • I’m thinking sometimes u can plant many seeds and then draw in others to nurture them?

      • yes, or to help thin them out when we can’t

      • I agree. See, you planted too many close together but somebody replanted them. It’s like when you write many spontaneous posts so as not to miss the moment or lose the thoughts/reflections, and none of them are mature yet but others will pick up on them and develop your ideas further or remix. You’re planting seedlings for others. The alternative is that you wait until you’ve developed ideas and write a mature blog post but it’s taken a long time. Choice. Love the metaphor, Maha, and also love reading everything you share.

        • Love the way u’ve taken this post idea and “transplanted” it onto blogging… I love connecting with you, too, Tania! Love many moments with you 🙂

  3. In creative writing class I learned the awful term “kill all your babies” as in sacrificing your fondest for the betterment of the final product. The ones you pull suddenly become very special. We used to replant some of the unfortunate in empty spots among the flowers or in extra pots. Agree with Susan, this is not a job for teachers–maybe the vice principal could be asked to do it? Is there a school of psychology focusing on gardeners?

  4. love the idea of a gardening school of psychology! 🙂

    • Lol! It came from the whole rhizomatic thing 🙂 for me, i mean 🙂
      I think metaphors can become problematic if u get too much into them and forget they’re metaphorical
      Have u ever seen my ‘education is like flowers’ class activity? We created a padlet. Loads of fun!

  5. As you know, this summer I did a lot of reflecting on balance, and your post is along the same lines. It’s given me a lot of food for thought.

    I’m intrigued by the implications of this idea for educators. Specifically, I’m thinking of my teaching context: English teacher at a high school in Los Angeles County, in the poorest neighborhood of a working-class suburb, a community where most of the students live below the poverty line, where many of our students are English learners, and where many of our families lack access to the resources that I have taken for granted as a middle-class white male US citizen.

    On the one hand, I want to achieve balance in my life. On the other hand, I want to do everything I can to build bridges for the families of the community I serve.

    These are often conflicting goals.

    I find myself wanting to take on more responsibility at my school, even though I already serve on the professional development committee, advise 3 clubs, act as liaison for a UCLA-based mentoring group, and chair a school governance council. Yet, in addition to the need to spend time with my family, attend to my health, and pursue my hobbies, I also realize that my professional effectiveness is often compromised by packing my work day with so many…things to do. Often when it’s time to sit down and reflect on how well I taught, or well I carried out my duties as a club adviser, I’m too exhausted from the day’s tasks to make meaningful connections – the kind of meaningful connections that will help me improve in my professional practice.

    The dilemma is, how do I act on the “less is more” idea – an idea which holds much wisdom – when I see so much need in the community I serve?

    • Yeah exactly! My thinking now is towards energizing other ppl to do same – so that our cause becomes something other ppl can also deliver on – so u won’t need to do all the committee work coz other members r doing it… If that makes sense?

      • That makes a lot of sense. It reminds me of the ideas behind distributed leadership.

        Your idea, I think, is also analogous to the instructional practice of organizing and facilitating meaningful learning experiences for students–rather than keeping the classroom teacher-centered and doing all the thinking for the kids while they take perfunctory notes.

        The trick, I guess, is not letting everything I’m responsible for fall down while I’m learning to delegate and facilitate and encourage others to get involved.

  6. Some things might be better left incomplete or left to run on their own. In “Thinking in Systems” Donella Meadows talks about leverage points and a paradox where attending to something too closely makes it more complex, pushing success further away from the point. As a parent you learn to step back and let go. This is very hard but if you step in at every crisis then people will step aside and leave it all to you.

    Are you fiddling with things that could sustain themselves? Working with helpless people? If something flops because you didn’t step in is it YOUR fault? What of the others involved?

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