This year I may put a wastebasket at the entrance to my classroom, just as a reminder to the students that emptying their minds at the beginning of class might be a good way to go. It sounds a bit nutty, I know, but truthfully, some sensible mental emptying wouldn’t hurt the students, and might make some room in their minds for a new thought or two. If I were an artist, I would draw the inside of a teenage student’s mind as a vast swarm of ideas, swelling with each class and careening around with craziness, bulging the head almost to bursting. On the outside my students usually seem fairly calm, but inside, there must be a sort of contained chaos as new ideas struggle to squeeze into the packed space. Seriously, how can I expect my students to accept a new idea in my class unless they first open their minds and dump a few thoughts at the door? Partially emptying a container, after all, means the container is now ready to accept new material. To add fresh water to a glass you first have to throw out the stale. I’m not sure how I can help my students go about this emptying process, but it might help if I simply started each class slowly and quietly. If there are a few minutes of peace at the start of my class, when my words are spoken softly and haste and fussiness are nowhere to be found, that may be all the kids need to allow some old thoughts to float off and be gone. Like a settling pool, some stillness might let their spinning ideas sort themselves out, thus opening up a little generous space for a few fresh ones from English class.