Flower number 21: Is there such a thing as secular spiritualism for the classroom?

After a little bit of reflection, it felt like something was missing-- I've updated some parts, with purple text. 

A last resort?

"What do you do with the child who does not respond to tutoring, counseling support, mentor support, has already been retained, and has been placed in special education? When it's a symptom of their home culture, how do you reach them when he or she seemingly refuses to learn what you have to teach?"

Some educators would argue that, that's just not even possible; every child is open to learning; and of course there are child study teams, social workers on campus, and child protective services to help, but this was the question I posed for one of my professors while working on my teaching credential many years ago.

It had been a very challenging week-- a third grade student in one of my mentor classrooms announced to the class that his birthday wish was to be dead.

In all of my glorious, let-me-save-the-world, naivete, I couldn't handle it. I had never heard a child speak about depression, despair, or suffering. I had never heard a child speak of suicide as an option.

What I did know, was that this-- although new to me at the time--was now going be an additional challenge to overcome while faced with the pressure of the state exam. I immediately felt completely helpless. So I brought it to my professor:

"Prayer" she answered, "Pray for them."

Now, a little bit about me, and my views: I am completely one hundred percent against religion in the classroom; I believe in the separation of church and state. In fact, I am "one of those people" who totally support that little girl who refused to say the pledge because of the "one nation under God" line.

Oh, still reading? OK, so, for me, there's a sense of camaraderie with a side of humor between my fellow educators, when the answer to such extreme situations is "pray"; it just seems so often to be a desperate, last resort:

Flower number 20: motivation, memory, and poetry

S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, adapted for screen.

In the movies, the characters are always reciting lines of poetry to each other. Take The Outsiders. Here, Ponyboy recites Robert Frost's Nothing Gold Can Stay. And he's a teenager! OK, OK, it does take place in the sixties, and there are plenty of baby boomers out there who may have had to memorize poetry by rote while in school. Here, our character says he memorized it because he never understood what Robert Frost meant. I doubt I'd be able to memorize anything I couldn't understand.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

More current, is the setting for the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which takes its title from  Alexander Pope's poem, Eloisa to Abelard . The theme of the film is based upon this poem, and here, Kirsten Dunst's character recites a couple of lines of it in order to show off a little bit-- inappropriately charming her boss.

Does reciting poetry still happen in real life? Did it ever? And for what purpose? Not counting song lyrics or limericks, I've never been anyplace, outside of a college course, where someone volunteered a few verses of prose.

Showing off, or not, being able to recite a poem in its completion, in public --is impressive. But I bring this up because unless I start now, I will probably never live either of these scenes in real life (well, at least for Kirsten Dunst's, let's hope not). I was never made to memorize poetry in school, and although I enjoyed reading, and was fairly studious, I never took it upon myself to do this. It's a little sad in a way, but then again, why would I? 

Flower number 19: 30 days (or forever) of happiness

"Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life." 

     --Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, huh? Well, I looked him up. He was born in 121 A.D. 

I know that Rome was the center of the universe in its time and all, but if we're talking about materialistic living, and our needs and wants-- I'd say, that is a pleasant perspective.

I was inspired by something I came across today while on Oprah's website. Yes, Oprah's. (I don't have cable, so I'm quite behind the times on a few things, mind you.) She has introduced a project that is totally, right up Ferdinand's alley. I like it so much, I'm going to share it with you, too, you know, in case you missed it on Oprah's page. 

It's called 30 Days of Happiness. It's a happiness journal. (Oprah is introducing it as a social media thing with Twitter, but I don't tweet.) I'd like to think that the 30 days would extend to forever, but seeing how it is that we get a little squeamish with commitment, well, let's just go with 30 for now. It was inspired by Eat, Pray, Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, and there's nothing new here. Oprah's interview with Gilbert was in 2007, after all. And it is not so different from those gratitude journals that everyone is doing. More on that in a minute.

So all you do is look for it. The happiness. And when you have it, you write it down. Done. Smiles. Warmth.

Get inspired by watching Oprah talk about it  here. Or, a little bit more, below:

So now that I've been inspired, I got to thinking again. Uh-oh.

Flower number 18: inspiration in a pretty (fun) paper alphabet

Paper brought to you by Digitprop
Digitprop has created, and shared, a beautiful paper alphabet. Wasn't that nice? Just print out and create! I can already think of so many things to do with these little guys... how 'bout you?

Photo by Digitprop. This is one amazing resource for fun. 
Everything you need is in their zipped up file, free for downloading, printing, and creating! Great for preschoolers, yes, but can't you see these used as a fun decoration in a child's room? I'm going to print some out and place in my classroom -- maybe "R E A D" or "D R E A M" or "W R I T E" or "I M A G I N E" . . . I can't wait to get started!

Download the letters individually here.
Download the complete set here.

Please share how you used these awesome letters by commenting, or submitting photos to the Flowers for Ferdinand Flickr Pool. I would love to see how your were inspired, and what you created ...or how you played games with these guys.

Big thanks to Digitdrop for their awesomeness.

Flower number 17: book making with students

Finding an authentic purpose for your students to practice the skills they've learned in your class is big. In a language arts block, one of most challenging tasks is to get the whole class set on writing with joy and excitement.

But when you've got it, there's nothing like it.

Forget writing skills for a moment-- seeing the entire group focused and writing their passionate little hearts out is what success feels like when you're a teacher.

One way to present an authentic purpose to your students is to have them write a book. There are so many steps in this project, and I've done it a few different ways, but my inspiration has been reignited through the artistry that I have found in so many online communities. I'd like to share them with you here, in hopes that you might want to explore this art from with your class, your children-- or yourself.

My favorite page for making books with children is just that:
Makingbooks.com from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord