Everything used between two human beings in order to know someone takes time.
Conversations (true give and take dialogue with lots of listening) take time. Reading student writing takes time. Peeling back the curtains of polish essays and digging into student drafts takes time. Putting one's hands in the soil and browsing student notebooks takes time, but the notebook (just a nose behind conferring) is fast becoming my preferred place of getting to know my students better.
Notebooks are keyholes into thinking. We peer into pieces of their processes. We catch glimpses of when the thinking flows. We see the full range between outlining and extemporaneous thought. We know what has been abandoned and we catch the sparks before the flame.
More importantly, for me, a notebook invites conversation without fear of judgement. Of course, it is all in how we approach it. Yet, I am finding that students like sharing with me from a notebook.
Maybe it has something to do with no grade being attached.
Maybe it has everything to do with simply being interested in what they are trying to say.
Maybe this is some of the best investment of our time that we can make as teachers.