Children Are Trees

Last week I was sitting in the conservatory of a very good friend of mine looking out at his garden. He broke my gaze by asking me what my role at the University actually was. I found myself telling him all about how we work to develop growth mind-sets, nurture tenacity and grit and sow the seeds of determination...

"A bit like gardening, then." he said.
"What do you mean exactly?" I answered.

"Look out at my garden and tell me what you see."

"Well, trees..." I observed "of various sizes and stages of maturity."

"Exactly!" He said. "What you can't see, though, is that I planted them all at exactly the same time... Some are a lot stronger than others, aren't they?"

"Yes, and why is that then?"

"Well I tried an experiment! You see those over there on the left?"

I nodded.

"I planted expensive high quality sapling seeds in rich fertiliser with a strong stake to support them and I water them regularly."

"OK" I said. "What about the ones on the right?"

"I bought them really cheaply so they were weak saplings. I planted them with hardly any fertiliser, they only got watered when it rained and I supported them with just one flimsy cane."

"But they look pretty strong to me. Look at their foliage and size!"

"Yes, it's as I expected."

"What do you mean?"

"All of my trees are in the same garden but the ones on the right had to send their roots out to find nutrients. They also have to stand up to the wind and they don't rely on me watering them everyday..." he said. "The trees on the left have relied on my support and attention and now they don't know how to look after themselves! As a result, they are OK but they haven't blossomed like the trees on the left have."

"A bit like kids then!" I said.

"Exactly." he replied.

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