I Will Not Talk While the Teacher is Talking

I Will Not Talk While the Teacher is Talking

When J.K. Rowling conceived of the idea of “The Black Quill” she likely didn’t realize how much she spoke to a trauma that resonated deeply with anyone who has ever been subjected to writing as a punishment. For many, writing is an enjoyable experience. It provides a cathartic outlet for dreams, goals, fears, and fantasies. Writing is an experience that many wouldn’t want to live without. However, there are a host of people who would disagree. For them, writing is a source of stress, anxiety, and frustration. It is that last thing they would ever want to do despite it being an ever-present, cross-disciplinary skill.

But why is that?

In “Writing is Informed by Prior Experience,” Andrea Lunsford asserts that “even when writing is private or meant for the writer alone, it is shaped by the writer’s earlier interactions with writing,” (1640). Essentially, the ways in which we approach writing, experience writing, and execute writing are colored by the ways we’ve experienced writing in the past. So, for anyone who experienced writing in a negative way, their future experiences with writing will likely be negative.

Lunsford even touches on this idea of negative experiences when she writes, “for many people [. . .] prior experience with writing had been negative, and this attitude and these feelings went with them throughout their lives,” (1644). This idea is supported by the article “Pain and Pleasure in Short Essay Writing: Factors Predicting University Students’ Writing Anxiety and Writing Self-Efficacy” which claims that “from a psychodynamic perspective, writing anxiety may be rooted in students’ early experiences,” (352). The general idea being that negative experiences with writing in one’s past can impact the way one experiences writing in their present and future.

As someone who loves writing and pursues it professionally, even my past is not exempt from negative experiences. I remember being made to write “I will not talk while the teacher is talking” as a punishment for talking in class. Although the words didn’t magically etch themselves into my skin, the psychological wounds left behind were just as damaging. I didn’t want to pick up a pencil or pen for days because it reminded me of the cramps I felt in my hand after writing that 100 times. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones Lunsford mentions when she says, “such associations or prior experiences can be mitigated or changed,” (1644). But even though I overcame that experience, there are many with similar experiences who didn’t

I still won’t talk while the teacher is talking though.

Lunsford, Andrea. “Writing is Informed by Prior Experience,” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Kindle ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.

Martinez, Christy T., Ned Kock, and Jeffrey Cass. “Pain and Pleasure in Short Essay Writing: Factors Predicting University Students’ Writing Anxiety and Writing Self-Efficacy.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 54, no. 5, 2011, pp. 351-360. ProQuest, https://login.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2050/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.auctr.edu/docview/852513125?accountid=8422, doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.auctr.edu/10.1598/JAAL.54.5.5.


  1. Good Morning Will,
    I do agree that a traumatic experience can most definitely turn some off from writing, and that could be one reason they do not want to write if there is any way to avoid it. However, some students just do not like reading and writing while other students don’t like math and science. How would we, especially as new teachers, be able to seperate those who have been traumatized versus those who just don’t care for writing? But, more importantly, how would we be able to begin healing the trauma?

  2. Wow, Will! I never realized that writing that statement was a real punishment. I always thought that that was just a myth that was in books and movies. How do you plan on avoiding these negative feelings with writing in the classroom? Do you think it is possible to shift the mindset of people have had negative experiences of writing in the past?

  3. Hey Willie,

    The negative experiences that I have had with writing definitely still linger in the back of my head. Teachers, especially K-12, often utilize writing as a method of punishment, creating an instant disdain for the craft. My earliest memories of writing punishment come from elementary school. My teachers would make me write anything and everything “100 times.” When writing is approached this way, I agree, students will resent it and want to stay far, far away from it. How do you think the opposite effect could be achieved?

  4. Melinda Grant

    Hi Will! Sadly, I bet many of us have a not-so-pleasant writing experience from our past. As much as I absolutely love writing, and everything about it from brainstorming to composition through editing to the final product, I cringe when I remember all of those five-paragraph theme papers I had to write in high school. They were so painful for me as often times I didn’t understand the topic we were analyzing. Luckily, we all moved beyond those memories and continued to pursue writing as a profession. I’m sure I also had to write 100 times “I will not talk in class” but I think I must have mentally blocked it.

  5. Kenneth Broome, Jr.

    Thankfully, even though there were a couple of times I has to write as a punishment (because I talked too), I never associated the negative with writing and continued to write as a hobby. I will say this is something I’ve never though about when it comes to my college students. Many have told me that they dislike writing for several different reasons; however, this makes me wonder if a writing punishment may have been a factor as well.

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