The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Funeral for an Enemy

        After reading Pat Hensley's post about teachers and students who feel defeated before they even begin a task, I unearthed a memory of a funeral several years ago.

        I was teaching fourth grade then. It was October, I believe, and my students comments were regularly peppered with "I can't..."  They couldn't figure out how to solve the math problem.  They couldn't figure out how to make trees for their shoebox scene.  They could not add any more details to their story.

        I got tired.

       Of course, I had my own "I can'ts" but they remained buried...unspoken.

       So, in an effort to end the whining, I had everyone (even me) write down all the things they could NOT do on little slips of paper.  I borrowed a shovel from our custodian, and we all walked outside, had a "funeral" and buried our "I can'ts."  

       From that point, none of us were allowed to say, "I can't."  After all, it was dead. Buried under the ground. No longer breathing...

photo from the queen of subtle

       As writers, as artists, there are many times we try to convince ourselves that we're incapable of doing something.   I can't carve out some time for writing this weekend---I'm too busy.

I can't rewrite this so that I can resubmit it.

I can't win this contest...I don't have a chance.

        I have a big "I can't" revolving around how often I write.  I keep wrestling with it, but the self-defeated attitude wins most of the time.

         Perhaps it's time for another funeral...


  1. Sioux,
    My classroom motto is Never say, I can't. Say, I can try.

    Kids have lost their faith in themselves. As schools teach to the test, we squelch their creativity.

    I give my students two photos of magazine cut outs and ask them to make an invention using the two. We have to raise thinkers!

  2. mie hoomin kant come to the compewter rite now, so its me, Bosco, Fierblossm's dog. hi, i hope ur having a funn day. :-)

  3. Hi Sioux,
    I love this. One of my grandchildren says "I Can't" a lot. This would be a great way to stop that habit.

  4. Hi Sioux - Your funeral idea is a good one. I may have to try it for myself! Like the inimitable Yoda said: "Do or do not. There is no try." That is harsh, I suppose, but in terms of writing, it is a good kick in the butt! DO!

  5. What a great idea! In my mind I'm picturing a staff development with the same concept and having all of the teachers put their "I can'ts" in a box and going to bury them! Sometimes adults need the same kind of treatment!! Thanks for the wonderful extension of the conversation.

  6. Fabulous idea, Sioux! And as writers, we all go through those moments, hours, days, of self-doubt...but hey, we gotta believe in ourselves! I wrote something on my blog sometime last year about quit being afraid to enter a contest or a call for submission. I said, "What's the worse that can happen? If they don't like your story, what are they going to do? Come over and beat you up?" That got some laughs!! You're a wonderful writer AND teacher AND person!

  7. What a great exercise you did with your students! Something we could all use from time to time...

  8. Very clever idea. I'm thinking I should copy this post and tape it up in my office, but I can't find room...I mean CAN!!! I'll move stuff!!!


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