It is an antidote to the culture of deficiency.
Part of the power of this process comes from its grounding in the DESCRIPTIVE, in the non-judgmental, non-evaluative world that is hardly seen or heard from in schools. In schools, we are often forced into being a grading people, a community of disparate rubric makers. I often say that, with this process, we are looking with our third eye.
This tethers us to the composition and also frees us to see what the student IS doing, instead of what she’s NOT doing. This kind of looking readies us for the moment we see the student in the classroom once again. We see the student as a maker and a doer, not as someone who needs a certain skill or who is lacking in a certain area. We teach from a place of the child’s strengths.
Even though we talk about this process as “seeing” or “describing,” we are actually doing more than seeing with our eyes. We are doing The Little Prince thing and looking with our heart. This might seem strange to say! Looking at digital compositions with your heart? OF COURSE! Because of this kind of looking, we connect with the student through her work. We become better teachers of that student and of many other students because of this process.
Patricia Carini, again in the adapted comments from her talk, “Made By Hand” says it powerfully:
“There has been in the past quarter century and more an extraordinary medicalization of the schools. As if in a clinic, children are diagnosed, assigned to a category, and treated – not infrequently with drugs. Observing is often driven by the search for evidence that will make the case that a child is ADHD or suffers from character disorder, or any of a big bundle of other diagnostic classifications. There are specialist committees that meet to decide the child’s treatment sometimes without with minimal if any opportunity for the teacher to offer her picture of the child. The assumption driving this activity is that it is the teacher’s job, the school’s job to “fix” the child so she will better fit the school mold. In the process, the child herself is too often lost from view.
The way of looking that is the foundation for Prospect‟s descriptive processes with its aims at fullness and balance contradicts this trend. The descriptive processes, whatever else they may accomplish, make a space for suspending these habits of snap judgments, classification, and assigning of labels. They make a space for stepping away from a vocabulary of deficiency. Positively, they create a space for discovering a vocabulary particular to a child and a child’s work that is both apt and vivid, and so to restore to view the child as she is — a lively presence, with capacities and strengths to be counted upon.”