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Let it Go

By Chick Moorman

One third-grade teacher I know had students writing on toilet paper recently. No paper shortage existed. The toilet paper choice was a purposeful decision that would symbolically represent the mind skill she was currently presenting to her students.

“You each have two sheets of toilet paper,” she explained. “With a pen, I want you to write a sentence describing some incident that happened this year that you would like to forget. Perhaps it was your grade on the last spelling test, or the time Mr. Stanley had to come in to ask you to be more respectful of the substitute teacher. It could be a time you teased or were teased. Maybe you couldn’t find the right birthday present for a friend or didn’t get invited to a party. Take a minute and record the incident on your toilet paper.”

The students did as instructed. They were used to engaging in unusual activities in this classroom. After all, their teacher was a Spirit Whisperer.

When everyone had finished writing, this educator marched her students into the restroom, where they deposited their writings in the toilet. “Watch what happens,” she instructed as she flushed the toilet. As you would expect, a swirl of water swept the papers away and out of sight as the interested students crowded around to get a good view.

After the students had returned to their seats, the teacher inductively coaxed from them the messages the activity was intended to deliver, which included:

  • If you don’t like what’s happening you your life, you can flush it.
  • What’s done is done. Let it go.
  • Get rid of bad feelings.
  • Writing it down and throwing it away helps you get rid of it.
  • Don’t hang on to negative thoughts.

Let It Go is the mind skill this teacher was demonstrating with the toilet paper activity. Again, this is a mind skill that can be carried out physically, using the toilet, or done with a mental flush.

Symbolic gestures and imagery help mind skills stick in the consciousness. Let It Go can be accomplished by visualizing concerns taped to balloons and allowing them to ascend in your imagination. Using real balloons is not an option as wild animals can be harmed by the remnants of the activity. Resentments from the past can be burned or buried, flushed, or sent away on imaginary balloons. They can be ripped up and thrown in the wastebasket.

They symbolism of actually burning file cards in a burn barrel and the imagery of seeing the cards and why they represent burn in your mind are right-brain activities. That’s the stuff of long-term memory. What are students going to remember about your classroom 10 years from now? Probably not that one day they learned five new compound words. Probably not that they read a chapter on amphibians. Probably not that they got a “B” on the economics test. But I bet they’ll never forget the day they went out on the school grounds and buried their “I can’ts.” The day they flushed their concerns down the toilet may stick with them forever.

Chick Moorman is the author of “Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish A Child’s Spirit,” and “Our Classroom: We Can Learn Together.” He is one of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. He publishes a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for one or obtain more information about how he can help you or your group meet your staff development or parenting needs, visit his website today: or