The Windows to Our Soul
Updated: Feb 22, 2021
When the wearing of masks became the “new normal”, I became concerned for young children. They rely so much on facial expressions to understand social relationships, and to make connections with others in their world. Clearly, some shared my concern and the development of see through masks began to circulate. As I have worked with young children and older students over the past several months, I have grown less concerned. I have begun instead to see the hidden benefits of these partial face coverings.
For years after the introduction of tablets and cell phones, I saw children looking down constantly. The act of looking someone in the eyes began to disappear. Children no longer looked into their peers’ or teachers' eyes during conversations, and especially not when there was a conflict to be resolved or behavior that needed to be addressed. This was not only a problem with children, many adults lost the ability to look at others as they spoke.
I photograph my students on my farm daily to capture their experiences for their grown ups. It became apparent early on that despite this facial barrier, I could tell they were smiling. The way their eyes widened or squinted and sparkled could not hide this.
Children growing up in this new normal will learn early on to look into the eyes of those they encounter outside of their homes. They will learn to recognize how the eyes change to match the emotion the mask obscurs. Angry eyes are very different from happy eyes, sad eyes from surprised eyes, and scared eyes from shy eyes. Young children will learn to identify these emotions, and their eyes will reflect this reaction. The words they speak will solidify the message the eyes send. Children will learn to be more observant and take the time to truly see!
The phrase, “the eyes are the window to the soul” will be reintroduced to several new generations who never thought to look into the eyes of others; didn't think it mattered, didn't think the eyes could share what a smile, frown, or grimace could. It has become abundantly clear to me during this challenging time that despite missing their smiles, my students’ eyes tell me more than their mouth ever could.