“I’m a late bloomer.”

My son’s comment dropped me on a weathered and familiar soap box.

Our Education System.

Our standards, structures, and testing do not serve a large percentage of our learners. And it occurs to me that’s why we even categorize people as “late bloomers.”

But are they?

Comparing is a slippery slope

Maybe that late bloomer is a camellia bush that you treat like an azalea bush.

Camellias don’t bloom in early spring. The camellia is a deep winter bloom, and when it blooms in December, it’s right on time. It’s not late.

Let’s try another metaphor. Maybe that restless student who, even on the front row and under your thumb, can’t sit still long enough to finish a task is a banana that you’re treating like an apple. The banana student doesn’t fit in the apple desk and can’t get comfortable. Maybe banana needs to slide and move around the classroom to understand the concepts you’re teaching.

What I saw over and over as I raised my children through the “system” and as I watched adults I know “finally” come into their potential was not a learner who failed, but rather a system that failed the learner. I saw a system that spent it’s energy trying to make all the different students fit into singularly-designed boxes. We have a system that fails to provide practices that draw out the potential of ALL the learners.

So when my son told me, “I’m a late bloomer,” he received an earful of old rants and a “No you’re not!”

Are you a late bloomer or are you a camellia?

My children, like so many children, bloom in spite of a system that didn’t serve all the learners. And (THIS IS IMPORTANT) thanks to the wonderful teachers who, even though they worked in a broken system, nourished different learner types.

To twist my metaphors about a little more: there’s a difference in being late for work and working the late shift.

More? Night owls should not be expected to thrive in the morning, just as we don’t expect early birds to be productive in the wee hours.

If we’re going to compare ourselves to each other (and sometimes we must), let’s make sure we honor and understand the differences between azaleas and camellias, apples and bananas, night owls and early birds.

And one more thing. If the camellia bush is in full bloom come January, isn’t the March-blooming azalea the “late bloomer”?

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.