During the first week of school, I give my seniors a questionnaire that, among other things, asks them to reflect on their writing strengths and challenges. One particular question asks students to discuss how they feel when they are given an in-class essay to write, and each time I ask, the overwhelming response is always “anxious” followed closely by dread. Worse, many of them describe their physical reactions to writing assignments with symptoms that are tantamount to anxiety attacks: an inability to breathe, clammy hands, headaches, racing heart beats, scattered or blank thoughts, blurred or tunnel vision, difficulty sitting still, nausea. When I ask students to consider why they feel this way when given a writing task, many of them cite failure and judgment as the chief reasons for their anxiety.
As every writer knows, there’s an element of exposure and vulnerability when writing for an audience that can be intimidating even for the most seasoned of us, but which for novice writers can easily become debilitating. Their struggle is real and rather than risk failure or a blow to their self-confidence, some students simply will choose not to write anything, feeling Continue reading “Taking student anxiety out of writing”