Late Bloomers

This morning, I saw this perfect blossom hiding between the leaves on our pikake plant. It’s a late bloomer; our pikake were flourishing during the month of July, and it’s now November. It brought back memories of one of my favorite children’s books, Leo, the Late Bloomer, about a tiger cub who struggles to do the things his friends can do like read, write, and draw. His dad worries about Leo, but his mom is reassuring, saying that Leo is a late bloomer. As it turns out, she was right, and the tiger cub catches up with his friends. 

In today’s educational system, we often push students before they’re ready, and that can do more harm than good. We know that students enter kindergarten with such a range of readiness experiences. While some have never been to preschool and need to adapt to the structure of school, others have been exposed to quality learning experiences from an early age and are ready for the academic and social-emotional expectations for kindergarten students. 
As a nation, we have moved towards standards-based education which details what students need to know, understand, and be able to do, broken down by grade level. Schools track students from beginning of the year to the end, and teachers give grades to gauge progress via quarterly and end-of-the-year report cards. Students who start off the year lacking the kindergarten readiness skills are still expected to achieve grade level expectations by the end of the year. Unfortunately, students who start off with a deficit in readiness skills are often our students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may be later identified as struggling learners. They may lack the language skills or the vocabulary to be successful and they are already behind when they first enter kindergarten. We cannot give up on these students. 
There are many late bloomers in our schools, those who may need a little extra time and encouragement to be the confident learners we want them to be. These students may struggle in the beginning, but once they gain the skills to be successful, they can eventually catch up with those who got an earlier head start . Some of these students have strengths in areas such as art, athletics, music, or leadership. Knowing a child and his/her interests, strengths, and challenges can make a difference. Teaching to the child’s interests and readiness level can lead to motivation, confidence, and success. It’s what we should want for every student. 
Just as our late-blooming pikake flower is gifting us with its beauty and fragrance, our late-bloomer students can gift us as well. Let’s give them the opportunity and meaningful experiences that will help them to be productive citizens who are successful in life. Ultimately, that should be our goal for every student.