October 7, 2022

If you visit our place in the far east, you may want to try an invigorating slice of furun – that is the unique name of the fruit – but my grandparents fondly call it the Kadaclan mangosteen. Relatively unknown to the rest of the world, it has 30 times as much as vitamin C, as well as powerful antioxidant properties.

We still have this tree in our yard in the province – just one tree standing, but that one small tree gave so much fruit. I remember lazy afternoons we spent plucking and eating the fruit straight off the tree, warmed and sweetened by the sun.

As an educator, I discovered a similarity of my life and that tree. Like many tropical trees, the furun tree doesn’t have a season to bear fruit. At first, it seemed to bear fruit whenever it pleased. Sometimes the tree was speckled with hundreds of red dots; other times I must climb high to reach for one. Why, I had no idea.

It was only after my recent visit in that place that one of the elder revealed the trees secret: It bears fruit in direct proportion to the water it receives. After the rains, the trees are laden with fruit, but dry periods leave them with just three – or no fruit at all.

From this perspective, there is no big mystery to having a fruitful life – whether you are a teacher or a school leader. The tree is our learner and/or subordinate, and the water is us. This fruit is the result or impact of the things we teach to the learners’ or subordinates’ life and the amount of fruit we bear will be in direct proportion to how much “water” we give to our “tree”.

A caring teacher can transform the school experience especially for students who face enormous difficulties, such as dropping out or dysfunctional home lives. One student who faced these kinds of hardships told a researcher the greatest thing a teacher can do is to care and to understand. “Because if not,” he said, “the kid will say, ‘Oh, they’re giving up on me, so I might as well give up on myself’.”

As a school leader, how can you demonstrate to your employees that you care about them? Employees who feel consistently cared for are more likely to pay individual attention to not only their customers and colleagues but also the work these people do. The keyword is is “consistently”.

Does this principle sound too good to be true in your life? Well, try investigating a little more in that tree of yours. Try watering it frequently and see if it won’t start producing these wonderful life-and world-changing fruits.