• Brian Kelley

I dabble with my doodles

Teachers take notes. Lots and lots of notes.


Groups of teachers tend to use an individual to record what was discussed and maybe even decided. Teachers save pages and pages of notes--which is just nomenclature for ideas. Pages and pages of ideas pile up and pages and pages of ideas vanish under the weight of the next idea, and the next idea, and the next idea....


Ideas arise everywhere from every corner of every school on every day and we are forced to decide which ideas do we capture? Which ideas are worthy of our time to return to them and/or share with others?


For me, the ideas that come out of my students take precedence over all other ideas, yet it is challenging to maintain a work flow that allows me to remain in the stream of my students ideas...as ideas from outside of the classroom so often drain time and drain energy.


I experimented with note taking systems encountered through my own learning experiences and from my professional relationships. I tried jotting in shorthand. Scraps of paper and charts filled with words and, for me, my eyes seemed to only ever revert back for reconsideration and reflection when an important something (meeting, assessment) was on the horizon and I need to refresh my memory.



In terms of just my stuff, sketching helps me. I'll sketch as a reader when I can take my time and reread something. I'm not very good at rapidly sketch noting a variety of symbols in the midst of listening to a speaker or while reading. When I sketch students "in the moment" my sketches resemble smudges of circles and slashes that somehow come together to resemble a familiar adolescent.


When I return to sketch my memory of a student conference or of an observation of a small group I experience the most professional exercising of what I do, how I do it, and why I am making the decisions I make.



Sketching conferring after the fact resembles my sketching after reading. Sketching has becomes a way for me to not only reflect but to capture what I am more likely to look at again and carry forward. I can't explain why, but because it is visual, I apply what I learned in that moment of conferring to future situations. I don't read my written notes in the same way. Likewise, I don't revise and edit my written notes. Yet, I dabble with my doodles all the time.


I read my written notes as if words belong only to that student in that situation. I don't read like that on purpose. I know I should be carrying that thinking forward (and I likely do someplace deep inside), but my thinking isn't as present as it is when I am sketching in the moment or returning to look at old sketches of my listening.


One element encouraging growth in this profession is the act of reconsidering what we have read, listened to, and experienced.


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