You know how when you’re a kid, random stuff really sticks with you? I once heard a speaker at a conference tell us, “Every conversation is important. The stuff you are saying to your kids that you hope they’ll remember? That’s not what they’ll remember.” It’s true – think about a pivotal moment from your childhood and what was said. It was probably not that inspiring speech about saving your pennies for a rainy day. It was probably the first time you heard your saintly grandma swear.
One such moment for me happened when I was…. 7? 8? I don’t know. It’s a story that has served me well in my classroom, since after I tell it, the children are entirely on my side. Here’s how it goes:
“Everyone in my family is an artist. My parents can make art, my brothers can make art, and my sister can make art. One day when I was little, my brother Phil said to me, “Isn’t it funny how we can all draw…. and you can’t?”
I will pause for you to imagine my dramatic pause as the children look shocked and say, “That wasn’t nice.” I nod and we all agree that it was not nice. Then I go on with the whole rest of it – about how maybe I can’t draw as well as he can, but I’m doing my best and blah blah blah inspiring stuff blah blah blah. Then when I draw a kitten that looks like a squirrel monkey the children all tell me what a good job I’m doing and my ego is soothed.
So, when I went to Illinois for the conference, this was part of my talk (Title: Stick Figure Awesomeness / Subtitle: Take that, Phil.) – encouraging people to embrace their own art and children’s art and blah blah blah inspiring stuff blah blah blah. I wanted to read the wonderful children’s book the dot by Peter Reynolds, and have images from the book projected behind me on the screen.
The story is about Vashti, a little girl who feels she can’t draw so she just jabs a dot on her paper. Her teacher frames her dot in swirly gold, which inspires her to experiment with making all kinds of dots blah blah blah inspiring stuff that’s actually very inspiring blah blah blah.
I needed permission, so I wrote to Peter Reynolds. I told him my sob story about Phil, and asked if I could use the images.
He wrote back!
Thank you, Peter – you and Vashti are my heroes!
(By the way, there is zero chance that Phil is reading this, but just in case – I’m not really mad. That one moment has made for a great story!) By the way, here is a painting that Phil did when he was an infant. See what I was up against? Need I remind you of the squirrel monkey?