Friday was my last full day in the classroom. I told the children one last story and then gave them a lined exercise book which I had covered in brown wrapping paper. I said,
"This might look like an ordinary exercise book. But it's not. I covered it in brown paper so that when you see it you know that it's different. It's your Book of Noticing. You can write down things that you notice. When I was your age and a little bit older I wanted to be a spy. I had read a story called Odette about a girl who helped the French Resistance during the Second World War. She had to be very observant all the time and pretend to be someone she wasn't. I also read a book called Harriet the Spy." (They knew about Harriet. They'd seen the movie.) "I liked to go around observing things like Harriet. I had a green binder where I kept my notes."
The children sat patiently on the carpet. The stack of notebooks was beside me.
"What do you notice right now?" I asked them. Their hands shot up.
"I notice that it's windy outside," said Tianna. We looked out the windows. We could see the cottonwood trees at the edge of the school property swaying in the wind.
"How do you know it's windy?" I asked.
"Because the leaves are moving," she replied.
"Great," I said and gave her a notebook. With their eyes on the stack of special notebooks, the children's ideas came fast and furious.
"I notice that it's cloudy and sunny at the same time."
"I notice that the trees are moving more at the top than at the bottom."
"I notice that everyone's crowding around to get a notebook," said Andrew. "And I want one too."
"I notice that the word 'noticing' has 'not icing' in it," said Zach.
"Or 'no ticing'," said Gareth, pronouncing it 'no ticking'.
The children began to write their names and "The Book of Noticing" on their exercise books. Or some of them did.
"I don't want one," said Ryan.
"Why not?" I asked.
"I just don't."
"Can I call it something else?" asked Alec. "The Book of Observation?"
"What about 'The Book of Noticing and Observation'?" I suggested.
He nodded and asked me how to spell 'observation.'
"I'm going to use it to write stories," said Charlotte. "I'm not really into noticing."
Who knows what will happen with those notebooks. Maybe one or two will actually sit down and write something they saw or heard or felt, and in doing so, develop a genuine interest in observing the world around them, as well as their own experience. I figure all you can do as a teacher is plant a few seeds.