Today I thought I’d share a story that I love.

This happened to my Dad — Ralph Gomas, a life-long art educator — when he was visiting elementary school classrooms while serving as Art Coordinator for the Fresno Unified School District many years ago.

The young students had been asked by their teacher to draw their families and the place they called home. All of the students were happily drawing away, and all was well. The teacher then became franic after one little boy picked up a black crayon and proceeded to very intentionally color over every inch of the picture he had carefully drawn of his family and home only moments before. Certain this boy was trying to communicate some sort of terrible emotional/physical/psychological trauma, she grabbed the picture away from the boy, and thrust it into my Dad’s hands for his interpretation. After studying it for a few moments he said to the distraught teacher, “Did you ask the boy about it?” She admitted that no, she hadn’t, but she was just sure something awful had happened to him at home and/or at the hands of a family member. Dad convinced her that they should simply “ask the child” about it first.

Full of fear and trepidation, the teacher walked with my Dad back over to the boy who’d blacked out his drawing.

“Tell me about your drawing,” my Dad said. “What’s going on here… why did you color over the drawing you did of your home and family?” Without skipping a beat, the little boy looked up at my Dad and said, “Well… it was night.”

Of course! How simple! During the day you could see his home and family, but then it got dark… because it was night!

As a teacher I keep this story close and try to remember to always ask my students about their thought processes when I’m concerned about, or don’t understand something, that they’ve done. What I’ve learned by doing this, is that they often have some keen insights that I wouldn’t have known about had I not asked them.