Blank page with a flashing cursor. Wavering thoughts. Incomplete ideas. Unfinished sentences. Plummeting motivation.
A good old case of writer’s block.
Luckily, I was in good company and my friend whipped a book out of her bag: Reviving the Essay: How to Teach Structure without Formula by Gretchen Bernabei (it’s pretty awesome, I have the urge to “forget” to give it back to her). Though my friend was just sharing her excitement that the book finally arrived despite Nemo’s interruptions, I eagerly flipped through the pages for some inspiration. I had lots of ideas floating around about my week of student teaching, but was struggling to put it together in a fun, coherent way. I wanted to talk about how I’ve been using Post-It notes in my class, but that seemed like a terribly boring idea. As I scanned the pages of the book, though, I found a lesson called, “Evolution of a Term” where you write about how a particular word’s meaning has changed to you when you were 4, 10, what it means to you now, and what it might mean in the future. Well, I honestly can’t remember what I did with Post-It notes when I was 4 or 10, so I slept on it and awoke with the solution:
An Ode to Post-It Notes
O Post-It note,sticky and yellow and square;
I’ve proclaimed to my students
just how much for you I care.
In the old days,
before Miss Richer became my name,
your purpose always was for me
eternally the same:
lists to myself of homework
that soon was to be due.
But now, with my teacher hat,
your function? Unlimited and new!
You mark evidence of power struggles
found in children’s books.
Students write on you what they just learned,
so I can see how their worlds have shook.
They provide explanations
of their thinking on a topic,
specifically Obama’s inaugural address
in which he appealed to credibility, emotion, and logic.
On you I write notes
of jokes I want to share.
“Miss, you’re so corny!”
they roll their eyes and declare.
I really wouldn’t have itany other way.
Post-It note, O Post-It note,
you really make my day.
You help me through my lessons
“Thanks a lot,” I sincerely say.
My experience in writing this post is making me wonder how my own students handle their writer’s block. They’ll be composing their own essays and short stories soon, so I think this is important to consider. In high school, before I knew about Bernabei, Gallagher, and “I Do, We Do, You Do,” I would find models for myself to get my writing started. I might find a quote that related to the topic or follow the structure of a poem I had recently read. Those were my strategies. What do they do? Is their strategy to give up? To seek help? If they seek help, is it from Ask Jeeves or a trusted friend? How can my instruction prepare my students to be independent writers and thinkers? How can I help them transfer their non-academic problem solving techniques to their academic work and vice-versa? Maybe a Post-It note response is in order…