“Our days are pressured and we push children aside in order to get on with the lesson.  The more I know a child, the more I can expect of him.  When a student perceives my face as one with intelligent expectation, we have a challenging classroom.  My face and my voice carry a tone that says, “you know things and I can’t wait to find out what they are.”     Donald Graves, A Sea of Faces

“Tell me what you are thinking, Sam.”  I whispered as I looked at a Journal page with a very large pencil drawing of a face on it.

“Well, I picked WOTD, reverse and the face one half of the face is the reverse of the img_3220other.”

“Ahh. I get it.  I get your thinking.”

I pivoted towards Alexandra.  “Tell me about what you’re doing.”

“Well, I picked WOTD,  also.  I wrote down here, “Reverse is img_3224another way of being different.

I moved towards Mandy whose page was filled with writing.  “When I heard the word reverse I started to think of opposites and then I was stuck.  I heard Emma say ‘clock’ and that got me unstuck and I wrote more.”

I was in awe as I am every week.  I paused and shared my observation.  “I am amazed every week at what unique thinking you all bring to Journal Soft Start, especially, WOTD.  When I thought of reverse I though of backing up my car.  You all have opened my eyes to the possibilities.  We writers can do for each other, we can help each other see possibility.”

As our Soft Start time was nearing it’s end, I got down on the floor next to Jimmy.  He has has consistently chosen WOTD for a number of weeks, he has this idea of turning them all into a book.  He even said “If you ever took Word of the Day away as an invitation, I’d quit!”  I looked down at his journal page and saw a person with what looked like a reflection.  “What one liner did you write today?”  I asked, quite curious to know where his thinking went with the word reverse.  I read “Reverse.  Let’s change the way we look at things.”  I followed with “Why? Why do you think it’s important to change the way we look at things?” He kept coloring and answered with “Well, you might learn more about different people and you might understand why people do things.  That’s kinda important.  Maybe there will be less fights.”

I’ve been reading a lot these days about seeing kids.  On Monday night, I heard  Jacqueline Woodson speak at our One Book One Town event.  She said,  “When someone sees me I feel loved.”

I think my time with Jess and her 4th graders has given me time and space to see kids and their thinking.  Every time they make a mark on the page, whether it be word or picture, they begin to reveal a little piece of how their minds work and I get to see a piece of who they are.

Seeing and knowing is the work that matters.







11 thoughts on “Seeing”

  1. Love that quote!!! Also, love that you have always taken the time to see kids. This seeing is growing relationships and writers. Thanks for sharing your words and these glimpses into notebooks.


  2. All of the thinking behind the Donald Graves quote is SO important. I wish I could get more people to do soft starts– so far it’s been a SLOW start. You weave real-time interactions with reflection so well in your writing. I wish I’d have met you on Monday night– I came with a friend but we left right after the talk as it’s an hour ride home.


  3. What a beautiful set of interactions with young writers. Love this line you gave them: “We writers can do for each other, we can help each other see possibility.” Seeing possibility is what inspires us all, and probably keeps us writing. So much to love here!


  4. “If you ever took WOTD away as an invitation, I’d quit.” ❤️ Your post has warmed my heart…again. Thanks, Dawn. (I’m going to put your post in the Writing Round-Up next week too!)


  5. This is a wonderful post about using a simple prompt to get the most out of kids. I love the response “Let’s change the way we look at things.” We all need a dose of that logic!


  6. Seeing kids and knowing IS the work that matters – so that they feel valued, loved. The conversations the kids had about “reverse” are wonderful – so many ways to “see” and “know” and so very important to TALK about them! Beautiful work in every way, Dawn. 🙂


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