On Monday I had the opportunity to assist an art teacher with two classes that constituted an afternoon substitute assignment. Both of the classes were enjoyable but couldn’t have been more different. The first was kindergarten and the second was fifth grade.
The assignment was fundamentally the same for both classes. They were to draw pictures of those items or concepts for which they were most grateful. For kindergarteners, it was my family, my favorite toy, my favorite food, my school, etc. The fifth graders had more to do, including people who helped them the most and my personal favorite, my best feature.
There were no specifics provided about the favorite feature to be provided. We didn’t know if she intended physical or personality feature, academic strength or personal story. I’m certain that she left it vague for the sake of promoting maximum creativity.
No matter what the intent, the fifth graders were all provoked by this requirement. Many asked me what it meant and I suggested that it was either a physical feature (eyes, ears, hands, biceps, etc.) or a characteristic that they possessed. Examples were strength, concentration, compassion, gratitude, and several others.
My hat goes off to the art teacher for including such a provocative requirement. We can’t indulge in the optimism required for students to come up with profoundly conceptual answers but a number of them asked me for my favorite feature. In response, I guess that I could have gone with the theoretical or emotional. I could have said my best feature was my writing, teaching, or ability to think.
Instead of that, I told them that my best feature was my ears, not because of their physical attributes but because they enabled me to listen. Listening to students is important, listening to the others in my world is critical, and as Judge Judy often instructs, we have one mouth and two ears so we do twice as much listening as we do talking.
It’s just a good exercise to consider our best features. Many of us spend so much time focusing on our faults that we forget what we do well. Imagine what will happen if we change direction. Shalom.