my students asked me today why, when I ask them to write for full presence, I also ask them to write for the full time given, and what, if they have nothing to say, I expect them to write. I told them about writing to think. how important that is. I told them about the times when I sometimes lie awake at night, unsure of the “why” I’m lying awake, but completely conscious of the fact that I am, as it happens, utterly awake, and generally holding a heavy stone in my stomach. I told them about how in those moments I take out some pen and paper and write, steam of consciousness, not knowing what’s going to come out, only knowing that above all else, I must. keep. writing. they didn’t know what stream of consciousness was, so I explained it to them. I shared with them the essence of what I wrote SOC last time I did, and they asked me to read it to them, as though I would have it, as though I live in the closet at school, as though the closet is like mary poppins’ brocaded bag; stick your arm in and everything you could possibly want it right there. unfortunately, I don’t live in that world, or, as it happens, the closet at the back of my classroom, so I couldn’t share it. I told them I would and I also realized simultaneously how completely impossible it is to give into ones self-conciousness as a teacher. I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I’ve given into that hollow self-doubt and reticence, shielded myself from the monster that would surely come out of its hiding place the moment I came out of mine. but it’s funny being a teacher, because you can’t recede. you cannot turn off with a slight internal whir and go blank, or bleary, or bye-bye. you have to keep going, forge ahead. so when your students ask you to read something you wrote stream-of-consciousness last Tuesday night at 3:30 am, you say “of course I will” and you pretend to be brave because you hope that in pretending to be brave, you will model the bravery you want your students to internalize for themselves, and maybe, just maybe some of them will be brave enough to write without having a topic and write without knowing where it will go and write and share afterwards, and just maybe, maybe you might actually be brave yourself.