The soul never thinks without a picture. –Aristotle
Or, as I’ve come to learn, a picture can reveal the soul.
As a high school teacher, I work with teenage students every day…but it’s not every day I see into their soul. The past few years I’ve started using images in the classroom as a springboard to journaling, inspired by practicing SoulCollage® and using the Growing Leaders Habitude® book series.
I have been amazed and blessed by what students have shared—about their family, feelings, faith and more. I have learned things about students that I would have never discovered with the typical first-week-of-the-semester-get-to-know-you activities. Using images can help put thoughts, feelings and ideas into words, perhaps that students aren’t even aware of and certainly weren’t planning on sharing with a teacher they hardly know.
This is what I ask students: “Select an image from a magazine that speaks to you. What do you like or not like about the image? What does this image say about you? About what you like/dislike? Tell me how you connect with the image in 3-4 sentences.”
This is the image Teenage Boy #1 selected. The caption on the bottom left reads “A Father’s Blessing: Corey is a late bloomer just like his Hall of Fame dad, who, despite his misgivings about football, never pushed his son to play basketball.”
Many students write about interests, hobbies, passions, but this young man went beyond the superficial and gave me a glimpse into his soul. He wrote, “This photo shows that I am family-oriented and I do a sport. I like that in the caption it shows the father helping out his son and not forcing him. The photo also tells I always wanted a father figure but never had one.”
Dear God. Be still, my heart. This young man wants a dad and never had one. And he is telling ME, a teacher he has known for 3 days.
“Images attract the attention of the right side of our brains, and when there are only images, this intuitive side stays in charge and will go deeper into the uncharted territory of the psyche. It is this side of our brain that can see the whole picture at once and surprise us with wise answers that seem to come from some deeper place.” Seena Frost, SoulCollage Evolving.
Because this young man risked sharing something so personal and was vulnerable enough to go “deeper into the uncharted territory of the psyche”, he has filled my heart with a renewed compassion and concern for all students who suffer the longing of a loving, and present, parent. Just a few days before Tim Elmore, founder and President of Growing Leaders (who I’ve been fortunate to receive training from at the Nebraska Career Education Conference) tweeted:
I love my dogs. But no dog is a dad. And this boy, and so many other children, want and need a dad to give them unconditional love and support. This was a good reminder that I don’t always know what’s going on with students– in their heart and soul, in their home or their head.
Teenage Boy # 2 shared this image and said: “I like this picture
because I want to grow old and happy with someone.”
This young man may have two loving, and in-love, parents that have helped him discover the importance of relationships. Or perhaps he does not. But he shared a vision for his future–an intimate desire for connection with another. And he shared this with a middle-aged teacher he’s known for three days.
My biggest take-aways:
- Images can bring forth words that may never have been spoken otherwise.
- Pictures are worth a thousand words.
- Boy students have the capacity for sharing and articulating personal information and for creating deep connections. As a mother of a girl-child, I’m not sure I realized this before using images in the classroom.
- Parents are important…and not just from a parent’s perspective. Young people yearn for positive role models and for unconditional love and support.
- Our children are suffering because they long for a mother and a father. Even if it’s more common these days to not have two parents living in the same home, a child’s heart is hurt by the absence.
- I still desire (after 18 years of teaching and the ups and downs of a demanding, constantly-changing profession) to connect with students at a soul level. If their parents aren’t there for them, I hope I can fill in that gap… just a little bit.
- I will continue using images to connect with students in the classroom.
- I love learning new ways to connect with students, like using Habitudes® strategies and SoulCollage® techniques to develop relationships.
- Teaching is a sacred profession. All jobs, careers or vocations can be. I needed this reminder and am grateful to have had it.