White Space

white space vase

Once again I take a post’s inspiration from #CAedchat, a weekly online chat among educators on Twitter that happens on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. PST. I didn’t write about December 7’s chat on “white space” immediately because, ironically, I needed white space to process it. I shared the concept with my students on Monday and with colleagues throughout the week.  All these interactions shaped this post.

White space, literally, is a place on a page free of any text or graphics. It serves many purposes, including (1) to help define the parameters of the stuff on the page, (2) to provide a place for the eye to relax, (3) to provide an opportunity for reflection or taking notes.

Metaphorically, white space was forced on me beginning with Thanksgiving. Short version: my husband was hospitalized on Thanksgiving day with a mysterious infection and even now, 2-1/2 weeks later, is on IV antibiotics and nutrition to give his digestive system a rest. He is well on the mend, but his healing process and our family coping process requires time and patience … and white space.

All of us need affirmatively to CREATE white space, including teachers in their classrooms and students in their school lives. In the chat one teacher revealed that her middle school has only two-minute passing periods. The physical challenges for students are obvious, but when I shared this with my students, they focused on the mental challenges of switching gears from, for example, Shakespeare to a math test in so short a time. One year I had three different preps three periods in a row before snack. It felt like that ancient comedy, If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium, and I didn’t even have to change classrooms. My students do this every day, I also shared the idea of white space with colleagues during the week and everyone, without exception, nodded and recognized the need in their own lives.

So, among my many epiphanies from Sunday’s “White Space” #caedchat, I resolve to build more white space into my teaching (my lessons, my daily plans, even my handouts) AND encourage my students to TAKE white space for themselves when the system doesn’t provide it.

What will this look like? Essentially, I will SIMPLIFY.

(See what I just did there? A one-sentence paragraph.)

  • I will literally and figuratively highlight the parameters and the importance of my “stuff on the page” with negative space around it.
  • I will create places on the page, in the day, in the class period, for the eye and mind to relax.
  • I will build in opportunities in time and space to reflect and to take notes.
  • I will revisit the chat archives for ideas and inspiration (thank you, David Theriault!) and this post, blog and my journal to recharge.

 Make Good Stuff (that includes white space) and Share!

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