Sunday, June 20, 2010

Japanese Beetles

Yes, this post is about education, inspired by those annoying little bugs.  In the spring I become Matt Guthrie, Suburban Farmer.  This year I've finally planted the type of garden I've always wanted, although it's a little small. One day I'd like to have acres to farm, instead of just square feet.

Each year I battle a variety of pests.  Japanese beetles return every year to wreak havoc on my plants.  They have devastated several of my bean plants.  I bought a beetle trap and that has captured quite a few.  Problem is it has not captured all of them.  Every evening while I'm out watering, I still find quite a few ravaging the tender leaves of my crops.  I usually handle them one of two ways.  Sometimes I'll capture them by the handful then dump them into the trap.  Other times, if there is only one or two, I'll squish them on the spot and spread their remains on the leaves.  Like most creatures, japanese beetles don't like to be in the presence of their own dead.

Saturday night as I was dealing with the evening's infestation, I began to see parallels to our efforts in education.  So many times we find a sure fired way to solve the problems our students are facing.  It might be a remediation effort, a skills diagnostic assessment, an after school program, or a beetle trap.  It does a great job meeting the needs of  majority of our students.  When the program doesn't work for the minority, we have a couple of choices to make.  We can watch the minority struggle and just let the beetles not caught by the trap eat your plants, er, I mean write off those students as unreachable.  Or we can add a little more attention to the minority, combined with the efforts of the program and help these kids.  Think of it as catching the beetles and putting them into the trap by hand.

Sometimes the program has to be abandoned and a different approach taken.  Sometimes you have the seize the opportunity to squish an individual beetle or work deliberately in another fashion with a struggling student. 

What do you do when the specified method you have to use is a beetle trap the local school district will only pay for beetle traps?  Every system and school has it pet program or excitement about the latest idea.  Those are great and should be used.  But the reality is that it's all about the students.  You have to find a way or you'll go without beans.  Saving the crop of students is really what it's all about isn't it?

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