How to Stun Second-Graders Into Silence

It’s not easy to stun a room of second-graders into silence, but I guarantee that this picture will do it:

We were discussing different cultures, and when we put this picture up on the Smart Board, 25 seven-year-olds gasped and gawked.

Maybe it’s the sea-green eyes or the piercing stare, but this Afghani girl has that same effect on people of all ages. She’s become iconic, an image many people conjure up when they think of National Geographic.

I will never forget my own reaction to discovering the original photograph while digging through old issues of the magazine when I was ten. She looks both terrifying and terrified. The horrors of war and an escape to a Pakistani refugee camp are conveyed in the way she almost glares at the camera. You feel as if she isn’t just captured on the page, she’s staring right at you, and she knows all of your secrets.

At the time, I screamed and slammed the cover face-down onto the floor, but a moment later, I flipped it back over to take another peek. As scary as the image can be, you feel compelled to stare back, to lock eyes with the image, and puzzle out the her almost baffling beauty.

If you haven’t seen the image before, I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comments. Did you startle the way I did or did you gasp and stare like my students?

If you’re interested, there is an article about going back to find the girl seventeen years later. It’s amazing, and the picture Steve McCurry took is just as striking.

I’ve had this new layout around for a few weeks now, and I’m curious to know whether you like it or not.

And it’s that time again. I’m writing this week’s Reader-Selected post tomorrow and need you to vote for the topic.

I also hang out at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, where I sometimes reblog pictures as beautiful as this one.

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