All it took was a notebook and a colored pen.
I recently met with a student, a typical overachieving junior with a litany of activities, AP classes, stints as a volunteer, and high aspirations of gaining admissions to an “elite” college.
Her English teacher had assigned a new paper - “The Common App Essay.” While at first, I wondered why this teacher was doing this now, as it is only April, I then thought, why not - this is a great dress rehearsal.
My student was frozen; she did not have one word written. In fact, she claimed that she had no ideas to write about.
Despite my endless suggestions, rescheduled appointments to accommodate her writing time - nothing, nada. Despite her mother’s pleading, yelling, and bribing to get this assignment done before the end of the quarter - nothing, nada.
A blank page.
I cleared my table - took everything away - and I mean everything - phone, computer - everything.
I gave her a legal pad and choice of her favorite colored pen (I am a sucker for a felt tip or gel pen, but I digress) and said GO.
I put a timer on for 20 minutes and said, write - you have 20 minutes to tell me what you believe in. GO.
After her shock and feeble attempt at resisting my request command - she took the blue, then the purple, then switched to green before settling in with the fuschia-colored gel pen and started writing.
Meanwhile, I went to my desk and pushed around some papers, returned a few emails - and tried to hide my smile as she furiously sat there writing.
When the timer went off - she said, “No wait - I’m not done.”
I gave her five more minutes.
It was the most beautiful writing I have seen from her in a while. Yes, it did need some editing, yes it did need to be chopped down to the 650-word limit for the common application essay, but yes - she finally found her voice. In fact, this dress rehearsal was pretty close to being ready for opening night.
So, moms and dads, stop the pleading, bribing, or screaming - go to CVS, Walgreens or Staples - get your child a legal pad and some colored pens.
Sit them down with a timer and say GO!
Register your rising senior now so they can Head Toward Summer with their common application essay done!