Curing the blight

Some of these flowers look like healthy learners. They are not stressed-out by the ecology they share with other flowers/learners. The other flowers appear to have some blight, like learners who lose their ability to grow in stressful, anti-learning ecologies.

The healthy flowers have four petals which symbolize four resources for coping with circumstantial stressors:
  • Exertion abates anxiety: Moderate exercise changes our physical state which then changes our mood and thought patterns. Getting active makes us less reactive to upsetting situations.
  • Meditation moderates misery: Achieving a "relaxation response" calms the heart and mind. We feel more resourceful after quieting our mental chatter, rather than continually helpless and victimized.
  • Relating restores resilience: When we're caught up in a community, we feel different about ourselves and others. We value the differences we can make and the ways we interact.
  • Reframing rekindles responsiveness: Redefining the problem gives us a new outlook to explore. Changing the diagnosis opens doors that we're closed before.
The flowers with the apparent blight cannot benefit from the effects of all four petals on circumstantial stressors. These learners grew more vulnerable to the hostile pressures in the ecology. They learned to be stressed out by the stresses, instead of becoming more active, reflective, interactive and creative. Their petals remain under-developed in an ecology that maintains the blight.

Curing the blight calls for awareness of the effects of stress on the learners. Their lack of resources for coping with adversity needs to seem as obvious as partial petals on a blossom. Then it becomes possible to cultivate what's missing. The learner who's lacking usually won't feel like becoming more resourceful. Their lack of ambition is a badge of honor, source of pride and protection against further anxiety. They make sure they won't get repaired by any mechanic who shows up in the garden with a pliers and a wrench (spanner). Yet these under-developed learners will usually respond to gardeners who know it takes patience, caring and sensitivity to grow what needs to eventually blossom.


  1. I think the idea of community building (not just lip service, but truly creating a learning community and/or a community of practice) is especially important. The "community" should not just involve one "group" of people (i.e. often adjuncts are left out of a "faculty" despite the fact that many have as many contact hours in the classroom as "regular" faculty), but try to bring together groups to create a community.

    Using your analogy, a garden might include some dead flowers, but when taken together, they provide collective beauty (some will be dormant, some will rebloom, some may still be growing, some will die and not come back, and some will blossom beautifully). If we spend too much time on just the roses, neglecting the rest of the garden, the garden withers. While the roses might be beautiful, that will only be for one time out of the year and there is a loss of "garden" or collectiveness. Different flowers in different stages of its cycle will need different caring and support. At times, some flowers might need to be pruned in order for other flowers to take off. My husband does all the gardening, and I know he moves flowers around at the end of the year to maximize growing, blooming, and color. It is a constant process and never "done".

  2. Virginia
    Thanks for this wonderful garden analogy. It captures the stress-reduction from relating superbly. I see great potential for this among faculty who are considering how they could teach differently, changing course designs and spawning more student engagement. These topics are often off-limits for faculty confined to their esoteric research interests and adherence to policy mandates from the administration and faculty senate. The adjuncts often feel the school "already asks too much for too little recompense" and would plant themselves outside the garden.

    I'm enchanted by all the details you describe for accommodating different flowers at different stages of growth. They add to the feeling of learning as an organic process; more akin to ecologies than machines. They also convey a sensibility of patience, accommodation and responsiveness to not kill, neglect or misread individuals.