The Stuff They Carry #sol19
February 26, 2019
I am definitely not the art teacher, but I appreciate the work she does with our students each day and admire the fruits of that labor as I walk down our main corridor each morning. This morning I was thinking about a completely different blog when this display struck me.
All these smiling faces. Well maybe except that one very hipster looking young lady in the bottom row. But then, I noticed this…
This young friend wasn’t thinking about one thing. He was thinking about more than one thing at once. Perhaps he couldn’t decide about the one thing or maybe that is how his brain works, lots of things in there at once, quite possibly very revealing. I This first grader’s thinking is a mystery to me. I like his wide smile and bright eyes. I can tell that on the right he’s considering a basketball and a football. I’m not sure about the left. I am reasonably sure that our wonderful art teacher discussed each artist’s thinking as they worked away in her sunny art room.
This made me think about a focus conversation I had midday yesterday. A teacher and I were discussing a student’s current progress. She had set an executive functioning goal along with his reading goal for the student to maintain independent work for ten minutes. She sighed. I don’t think he can stay focused at all. But then we dug in, could he restate the directions? He could. That takes focus. Maybe the task was too big or too daunting for him right now.
I was thinking about that conversation and that student when I looked at the self portraits. What would be his self portrait? He seems sad and tired when I am with him in reading. Does the work feel too difficult? Is he silly to avoid the difficulty? So today when I was with him in his class, I looked with new eyes. What might we do to help him?
Our Art teacher had a plan when she did these self portraits with the first graders. Still when I chatted with her about them today, she said there were a few who struggled with creating that self view. One was worried about failure before he began. As she talked and drew with him, he didn’t see himself as successful and anticipated criticism. At his request, she didn’t display his self portrait.
Other saw themselves like the happy girls I shared at the beginning. Covered with hearts, I hope this is the life view they are carrying now and into the future. What can we as educators do to keep that happy spirit afloat?
My young sad reader has had a lot of trauma in his young life. I imagine risk taking and difficulty are something he would understandably like to avoid. What tiny steps can we take that will germinate that seed of success? I offered a token idea up to him today full of choices and encouragement, hoping to create in him a self portrait of a happy reader. He was tentatively open to it. We’ll try that first step tomorrow.