I came home this afternoon after a rewarding but long day of summer professional development, and I noticed that my flowers were in great need of a long cool drink of water. I may have been in air conditioning all day, but they had been in the warm June Missouri humid heat. I may not be fluent in “flower,” but I can read body language. Droopy sad flowers are not as pleasing as full bloom happy little flowers, so I mentioned to my husband that I was headed outside to water them. He declared his intention of coming with me, so outside the house we went. He had purchased several sacks of cypress mulch to put down in my flower beds the night before, so we set about clearing stray weeds and grass from both flower beds and adding the mulch so that I could then water the flowers.
Yes, these are my actual flowers. I took the pictures this very evening while the idea for this post grew and developed. As I plucked the occasional grass from the first flower bed, I mulled over the content from the sessions I had attended today while also discussing recent personnel changes in my own school district with my husband who is the Technology Director (yes, I know that makes me spoiled as an educator). We lost a great coach and teacher to another district recently, hired several new teachers and a new elementary principal, and I am really excited about the functionality and power of Google Keep. These were my thoughts and the snippets of my conversation with my husband as he worked in the cypress mulch, and I picked weeds and grass. And then he says it. “Is this a weed?” Pluck. Snap. Toss. I look up, and one of my flowers is now deceased. “Nope, that wasn’t a weed,” I reply. My husband glances at it where he tossed it up on the porch. “Well, it looked like a weed.”
I know what you’re thinking (well, what someone somewhere reading this may be thinking). What does this have to do with education? I’m so glad you asked. It occurred to me as I contemplated the flower my husband had just plucked and tossed aside that some students were like this flower. There are students who don’t fit the typical mold. These are the students whose brain doesn’t function or process information like the “normal” students. The student who has no idea what personal space is. The student whose parents have no social skills and therefore have condemned their offspring to the same fate. The student who is poorer than most in your district. The student who doesn’t believe in showers or deodorant. The student who believes in showers and deodorant but can’t take on or apply some, for whatever reason. The student who is mad at the world, every single day. The student who won’t talk or participate. I could do this all night, but I think you get my point.
Not every flower is tall. Not every flower is perky. Not every flower is perfect and without blemish, and some even have thorns. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t belong in our flower beds. As you cultivate the flower bed of your classroom, keep in mind that you students can’t help where they come from, they don’t get to choose their parents, and they are kids. Their brains are not fully developed. There are a lot of things in their lives that are not in their control. Read their body language. Figure out what they need. Some need mulch. Others need water. All of them want to live in a weed free flower bed. All of them want us to notice that they are not a weed. They are flowers.