512. Reading Faces

Children (and adults) say a lot with their faces. Today I spent a few minutes watching children’s faces as Lorraine, their teacher, was talking with the class. Lorraine asked a question, and Zeke volunteered an answer. His answer was not even close, and a few children laughed. Not enough to get Lorraine to reprimand them for laughing at Zeke’s answer; reprimanding them could have made more of the issue, and she probably hoped Zeke wouldn’t notice. But I watched Zeke’s face (carefully, so he wouldn’t see me watching), and I could see that he had been bothered by the laughter. Zeke tries to fit in, and mostly, he doesn’t succeed. He may have wished he hadn’t volunteered an answer. Risk-taking had worked against him this time.
A few minutes later, Lorraine asked for two volunteers to make a thank you card for someone who’d presented a slide show to the class. She said she needed someone who liked to draw (at this point, Linda’s hand went up, and Linda looked hopeful) and had neat handwriting (at this point, Linda’s hand went down, and she looked disappointed). Maria’s hand also went up, and she looked as if she really wanted to be chosen. Lorraine ended up choosing Linda, whose hand was no longer up. Linda looked delighted, and Maria looked defeated.
Little dramas were going on in the class, and Lorraine, who was trying to accomplish several things at once, may or may not have noticed the dramas. She may have been making mental notes, intending to follow up on what she observed. Or she may have totally missed the clues written on children’s faces, and missed the dramas. Maybe they weren’t as important to her as other concerns she had to think about.
All of this happened within a few minutes. It made me wonder how much more we could learn about children and other people if we were able to pay attention to their faces while we did whatever else we did. I know some people who are able to do that more consistently than others, and such people impress me. Not everything people think and feel is expressed in words, and much of what isn’t ought to be. Most of us miss some important things faces say. I know that what we think faces are saying isn’t always what they’re saying; words often do the job better. But we communicate better when we use as many clues to meaning as possible. And faces can be good clues.
A lot goes on in people’s minds, and not all of it finds words. I know teachers are busy people; I know that quite well. They have a lot to do, and a lot to look out for as they’re doing it. But sometimes what they’re trying to do can be done more effectively if they pay more attention to children’s faces.

Comments are closed.