I remember the one and only magic eye image I saw. It was printed in the puzzle section of our small-town newspaper and I stumbled across it as I sat flipping pages in my grandparent’s kitchen. When Grandpa saw it, he stopped me. “Oh, this was fun. You should try it,” he encouraged. Coming closer the unhooked buckle from his overalls clanged against the table.
“I never see these things,” I admitted.
“Well you have to at least try.” He took the paper from me and instructed me to stand. He began by holding the paper directly to my nose. I shifted slightly, feeling awkward and nervous. This is so dumb I thought. Why am I doing this if I know I can’t see it? And why am I nervous about it?
Slowly, Grandpa backed away, keeping the newspaper at arms’ length. “D’you see it?” he asked.
“Nothin’ yet,” I sighed both hopeful that it would work and fully expecting yet another magic eye failure. Then, slowly it happened. The dots and spaces blurred and seemed to shift in a way that revealed a face. No, a profile. “I see it!” I beamed, frozen in place so as not to somehow knock this miraculous alignment of circumstances off kilter. “I totally see it! It’s a face, looking sideways.”
“It sure is,” Grandpa said smiling. “You did it.”
Coming back to the table, we sat together and I stared at the now jumbled dots, dashes and shapes wondering if I had only imagined my magic eye success.
* * *
Twenty years later, I’m again sitting at a table though the paper spread before me is not newsprint. Instead, I’m surrounded with student work and find myself moved by their writing. Sometimes I spend days or weeks frustrated by trying to squint and squeeze my eyes so the “magic eye” puzzle where each student is a dot or dash that I expect to come together resulting in a clear collective image of what I hope reflects their progress.
Yet, when I allow myself the time to think and reflect, I realize that the frustration isn’t a result of student progress. It’s that same old feeling that I wasn’t “seeing” the image that is clear to so many others. By seeing each student individually, I again sense the excitement of “getting it” and unlocking the mystery that always seemed so elusive. By focusing my eyes in the individual instead of blurring them together, I become a master magic eye viewer!