Over the last couple of decades or so, high stakes standardized testing has become part of the American classroom status quo. There is talk of increased “academic” time, academic achievement goals, and adequate yearly progress. Several times a year teachers and administrators gather together to pour over their data and try to decipher those numbers into meaningful classroom experiences. As hard as they may try not to, it’s pretty much guaranteed teachers will peek over their own reports and ask about their neighbors’ scores. After all, this is serious stuff. Not too different from their student counterparts, they’ll nervously ask, “What’d you get?”
What scores are they referring to? Their overall classroom math and reading scores.
Frequently a teacher’s scores may be a bit lopsided. Their overall reading scores may be vastly higher than their overall math scores. It may be that they have a class full of students who naturally lean toward the verbal side of things rather than the mathematical. Perhaps the teacher is a bit shy of math themselves and isn’t completely comfortable teaching the material. Maybe math is taught at the end of the day and by the time they get to it the kids are exhausted and tuned out. Or maybe it’s vice versa? Maybe the overall classroom scores are biased towards math and reading scores are lacking? Worried for job safety, feeling defensive over all the work and love they poured into their students, and maybe a bit of dented pride – the cry of “but how can I be accountable for both scores? Math and reading are like apples and oranges. I can’t be held responsible if they don’t get both subjects!”
So much emphasis on apples and oranges. Maybe some apple fritters and orange juice. Fried apples and orange sherbet. But what happens if you’re a pineapple?
I like to imagine a time long ago, when humans lived communally in tribes and each was assigned a responsibility based on their natural gifts and inclinations. Maybe there were warriors, shamans, healers, gatherers, farmers, textile workers, and caretakers. Someone had to be leaving behind all those artifacts right? There must have been artists, dancers, scientists, musicians, and problem solvers. I’m sure there were those responsible for diplomacy and social justice as well. In a time when you HAD to rely on each others’ innate talents for the benefit of the tribe as a whole, every members’ gifts were valued and utilized to their maximum capacity.
Fast forward in time and we still have people who perform those functions. But we put limits on who can participate. We devise hoops and hurdles to jump through. And then there are only so many available “spots” open for those who make it through the obstacle course. From our earliest experiences, our five year old selves learn quickly that only apples and oranges are valued. High praise for those who are reading in kindergarten. Kudos to those who can “carry the one” with ease. But if you’re a pineapple, and your skill is of the visual/spatial variety – you can replicate pieces worthy of the Louvre and you quickly understand that your talent is less valuable. That’s “fluff.” Crayons are for “free time.”
What about pomegranates? You may be able to brush the strokes of heaven with your musical talent, but you quickly learn that “we don’t sing songs past second grade.” Music class? That was deemed unnecessary in lieu of practicing how to fill in bubbles, because we all know “musician” isn’t a real job. Whether we want to recognize it or not, our classrooms are filled with pineapples, pomegranates, blueberries, even a mango or two. Our beloved apples and oranges come in other flavors as well; there are Pink Ladies, Galas, Clementines, and Kumquats each with their own unique perspective to share. What I fear, is that our exotic fruits are beginning to believe they hold no value. They have nothing to contribute because when they look in the mirror, they see neither an apple nor an orange.
When you make a fruit salad, letting the flavors chill and mingle in the fridge for a few hours makes it so much yummier. THIS is why many of our overall classroom scores are lopsided or failing all together. In our rush to achieve health, we have forgotten that we need those extra bioflavonoids that come from a varied diet. If we continue with this dichotomous course we truly run the risk of losing a piece of our humanity. Most of our game-changers would have been classified in the exotic section of the grocery store and some of them would have had to have been special order. Albert Einstein? The Indian Custard Apple. Mozart, Kurt Cobain? Pomegranates. Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla? Boysenberries. And I’m pretty sure Leonardo da Vinci was a Rambutan.
…And the little boy who grew up believing he had no value, whose talents weren’t recognized or cherished because they didn’t translate well on a Scantron sheet, he’s a Pineapple.
A beautiful, bright Pineapple that stops our fruit salad from becoming dull and predictable. Please know I see you, and I value you. And as long as you can remember to value your own Pineappleness, you’ll be a game-changer too.