I take all of the pictures I use on this site with my iPhone, many without even looking into the viewfinder. I've added an application that allows me to take pictures by just tapping anywhere on the screen so I don't even need to pay attention to that.
They're snapshots in the truest sense of the word. I don't take any particular pride in my photographic ability. I have no philosophy or training or expertise or even experience. Many of them are blurry messes, but I use them anyway. In fact, I use almost every picture I take unless it's absolutely indecipherable.
I began taking photos in class at the urging of Kristin over at Preschool Daze. Now she's a real photographer, her pages full of preschool teacher eye candy that sucks you in and won't let you go. I'd commented that I was worried that having a camera between me and the kids too much of the time would diminish my teaching ability and she responded that she'd found the opposite, saying it just took a little practice, so I gave it a whirl.
She's right. I still try to keep my snapshot taking moments to a minimum, but I don't think I'd ever want to teach again without a camera in my pocket. I now spend a lot of time reviewing my photos. One of the highlights of each day, in fact, is watching the screen as the phone dumps its fresh stash into the computer.
But I also often go back over the months and years, looking for ideas, inspiring myself, remembering success and failures. I notice new things every time, setting off on new paths of inquiry about children, parents, and teaching. It's become a centerpiece of my reflective practice as a teacher, the habit of spending some time each day simply thinking about what I'm up to, where I need to improve, and where I can take pride.
What I've noticed recently is that I'm always taking pictures of hands.
Even when I think I'm photographing something else, there are hands right at the center.
I suppose that's because hands are the "doing" part of our bodies. That's where the action is. Hands tell stories in a way that words and faces simply can't.
I don't do it on purpose, but there they are, slide after slide of hands engaged in something.
Maybe we're all doing that. I haven't taken a survey of the blogs I read. Maybe we're all documenting the hands of the children we teach. I know that parents tend to focus on the faces, asking for poses, or capturing candid expressions, but as a teacher I find those moments of cuteness far less compelling than what the hands are up to.
Hands tell the story of learning. That's where our focus is.
Almost always, that's where our eyes are focused as well, either on our hands or on the action our hands have caused, but it's the hands that tell us where the learning is.
If eyes are the window of the soul, then hands are the gateway of the intellect.