Monday, March 4, 2013

Slice Four - To Be Seen

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are challenging ourselves to write a Slice A Day.

Friday night I went to the mall. Needed to kill some time between an errand and meeting my friend for dinner. As I walked to the first store, I couldn’t help but notice almost everyone in the mall was on a phone. I passed ten people before anyone looked at me….all eyes were glued to the devices in their hands.

Upon meeting my friend for dinner I placed my cell phone on the table. Ever since we had Luke, I’ve always had my phone out and with me when I’m away. What if a sitter needs me? What if the boys need me? Looking at it, and thinking of the mall, I quickly flipped it over so I couldn’t see the screen. I thought of how glad I was to be at dinner with a friend that I needed to catch up with. Texts could wait.

And then I saw this video of Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk last week.

I was struck by her description of her years after college – life as a living statue. She would give a flower to people who put money in her hat and they would have a moment of “intense eye contact.” She said her message was, “I see you.” And often their message was, “Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.”

That made me think of a book from last year, Linda Urban’s Hound Dog True. I loved that book, especially because I loved Maddie. Maddie was quiet, an observer of the world, but didn’t share her thoughts often. Maddie was shy, afraid to put too much of herself out there. I have known many Maddies as a teacher. Heck, I was a Maddie in school.

After reading this beautiful book I immediately handed it to a student. I left her a post-it note on it and said, I just wanted you to know that I see you. She returned it to me with her own note. She continued to share the book with others for the remainder of the year, saying it was the best book she had ever read. Towards the end of the year I received another note from her, saying how much she liked my class. How she thought I understood her.

So I looked around the mall. Around the restaurant when I was with my friend. So many people had their eyes turned down. Do we see others anymore? In the race to keep connected, are we losing important connections right in front of us? I hope not.

And then I turned my thoughts to my classroom. We don’t have smart phones taking our attention from each other. However, do I see all of my students? In the midst of testing, paperwork, report cards, student issues, parent issues, etc. – do my students feel seen? Feel known? I know that feeling. I know the feeling that my teachers don’t know my name. That my classmates might not know anything real about me.  I don’t want my students to feel that.

There is a feeling of exposure with eye contact. A feeling that you can’t hide. It’s scary at times – someone can see to your soul.

Will they still like me when they know who I am?
What do they see?
What do they think?

I thought those things when I was younger. Confidence was lacking in extreme ways. But as I got older, the confidence came. Once I knew who I was, truly, and accepted it, I grew more in every way.

This is what I want for my students. To be know. To be seen. I want to look my students, my children, my friends in the eyes. I want to have those moments with them. Moments of intense eye contact. Moments when they know, without a doubt, that I see them. I care. Those moments are more valuable then anything I might see on my phone.