Turning to Face Your Blank Page

 

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.”

 

One student,

let’s call her Isabella,

bravely said,

“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

to grow.

 

Trevor

@trevorabryan

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