Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Day 4: Lobject's blackboard
My earliest experiences of playing teacher during summers between elementary school involved smooth rectangle chalkboards full of possibility. I enjoyed the act of writing on them. The crisp white lines on the black background seemed to me the most perfect combination, and I often wondered why books weren’t printed white text on dark black paper. I thought I’d publish my books like that and everyone would be shocked at how much sense it made. They’d want to copy me. This would be my great contribution to the literary world.
Even then, though, as much as I enjoyed composing worksheets and assigning colored star stickers, the best part of school was having parades around Balmoral Circle. The street was safe for red wagons, shiny bicycles, pink and blue streamers—the colorful, mobile school supplies I cherished most.
I see this now in my teaching tools and methods: the bright whiteboard markers that line the bottom of last year’s CCCCs tote bag; the multimodal presentations I create for classes and workshops lined with well-placed colors, images, and videos; the color-coded sample argumentative paper outlines I filled my classroom’s whiteboard canvas with just last week.
And my writing center holds two of the last blackboards on campus. These green squares are centered prominently on back walls near my office. Five years ago when I started the writing center and first saw my space, I wanted to remove the chalkboards in favor of white walls I could fill like a scrapbook. As it turns out, the removing the boards would also remove the walls and the chalkboards aren’t actually chalkboards at all. I had to use special markers to write on them, and it takes water and more strength than I possess to erase the boards. I know this because years ago I selected writing-related quotes for each board. When I wanted a change, I didn’t get past removing the quotes off one board, keeping the quotes on the board opposite my office. Every day I am glad I carefully selected the remaining quotes. Students stand in front of the board staring. They read the quotes aloud. They look at me. “I get it.” I think these words inspire writers to revise, edit, and continue writing. The words are fading. I hope to outlast them.
My favorite quote is James Michener’s “I’m not a good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” In this quote I find the beauty of the blackboard/whiteboard/rewriteboard: the ability to easily erase and revise, explore, reconsider, and start fresh. These possibilities are the very things I strive to instill in writers, in my own writing, and in my life.