Everything I Needed to Know About Kids I Learned by Drawing With Them

.... okay, not everything. I'm as clueless a parent as everyone else out there.

However, there is certainly a lot to learn by watching a kid with a pencil and a piece of paper.

A couple of years ago, the four first-grade classes at my kids' school did a mural on the lifecycle of a trout.

I drew it like a big coloring book, divided it in four sections, and then let the kids have at it.

There were amazing differences in, well, everything.

Some kids took all the crayons in a bunch in their fist, and colored with them all at once in big swirls.

Some kids drew in additional creatures or plants.

One kid took each crayon out of the box in order, made a single line with each one, put the crayons back in the box, and declared herself finished.

Can you see how amazing this is?

I learned so much about how these kids organized themselves. Some of them crawled around on the paper, some kept to the corners. Some asked permission to color things, others had to be restrained in order to not obliterate someone else's work.

This did not just give me insights into their personalities, it told me about how these kids think. Some were much more structural, some were into texture, some were into line. Some just liked the feel of the crayons.

This is what we are dealing with when we educate kids. They come in with their own ways of making sense of the world, and our job as grownups is to help them make the most of them and offer them ways to grow.

These differences reveal a lot about each kid's unique strengths. I've seen a kid who can't seem to focus, unless he's building an articulated model out of K-nex. I've seen a kid who doesn't say much unless he's got a pencil, and then a world comes pouring out.

Drawing is one way that you can very quickly get a lot of insight.

Try it with yourself. Take a piece of pencil and a paper. Where do you start? Do you plunk something in the middle? Do you start over on the side? Do you draw big or small? Do you make lines that are very fine or dark or both?

Then, try this with a nearby kid. I promise you'll feel like you know him or her better afterward.