The other day,
I was discussing the first illustration
from Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot
with a bunch of fifth graders and their teacher.
In that illustration,
Vashti, the main character,
is sitting alone in an empty classroom
she has her back turned towards the paper,
she scooted her chair away from her paper,
her arms are crossed,
the colors are dull
and she has a scowl on her face.
Vashti is clearly unhappy, perhaps
frustrated, upset, disappointed,
or lacking confidence too.
The blank paper can symbolize a barrier
or her lack of ideas, or her frustration,
or her feeling empty-not knowing what
to do or say.
During the story,
with a gentle (and generous) nudge from her teacher,
Vashti is able to turn and face
her blank paper and then her blank paper
begins to fill up.
Her papers grow bigger,
her drawings grow bigger,
her confidence grows bigger,
her creativity grows bigger,
her happiness grows bigger.
At the end of the book,
like her teacher,
Vashti helps someone else
turn and face their blank paper.
We discussed all of this.
We then asked the students,
“What’s your blank paper?
What’s one thing that you can
turn and face? Perhaps, like Vashti,
it’s something to do with school.”
let’s call her Isabella,
“I’m tired of getting in trouble
when I don’t know what to do.”
Poof. Her blank paper was blank no more.
She filled it. In that classroom
she would never get in trouble
for not knowing what to do.
By her turning and facing her blank paper,
there was an opportunity for her to grow.
By giving her the opportunity
and the support she needed
to turn and face her blank paper,
we all had the opportunity to grow.
Isabella is now on a path to
move forward more confidently
and potentially help others to
turn and face their blank papers.
Her voice was heard.
Her voice created change.
Her voice was empowered.
This is the power of engaging,
discussing, and responding to art
meaningfully and personally.
It can create space for all of us
to join the conversation
and sets the stage for all of us