In Praise of Papyrus

I’m a “blank piece of paper person”. A BPOPP!

Lesson plan? Training session ideas brainstorm? Presentation notes?


I keep blank paper around, always. I loiter around the printer paper pile. I’m wont to snag a slightly too-pristine leaf from the recycle bin. I keep the extra leftover quarter-sheets from my and people’s lessons on my desk, those are great!

And because I’m a BPOPP, of course I keep a good pen in my shirt pocket at all times. I have a love/hate relationships with even the nicest shirts in my wardrobe that lack one. Because where does the good pen I need to write on black prices of paper with, like, AT ANY POINT IN MY DAY go? (It goes between two buttons, is where, but that’s not ideal).

Today/right now that pen is in the easy access position in my pullover sweater thing:


Easy access to what end? For to take the shortest possible path from point A (in my shirt pocket/between the buttons/clipped to my sweater) to point B (a wonderfully unconstructed and unconstricting – read: blank – piece of paper).

At the moment, there’s one folded blank price of green paper in my pocket with a few different notes from today from different parts of my day today. There even be one somewhere in my person, who knows. That means that all within a one meter distance rests my holy trinity: Mind – Pen – BPOP.

Are you also a “BPOPPer“? If you are, you recognize what I’m getting at here.

BPOPPies of the world unite and take over!


No wonder I’m into Dogme ELT. No wonder I’m into #ELTwhiteboard (it’s like a big ‘ol blank piece of paper stuck on the wall).

No wonder I think the best reflection “form” on a teacher training course comes straight from the printer paper supply pile, or better yet the recycle bin.

Here’s an example from today. My colleague had done a listening lesson demo, and afterwards my job was to elicit from the trainees what took place, how it unfolded. What (activities in stages) and why (task/stage aims). And introduce them to some (no, not as many as I have there for sure all in one session) to some key considerations.

That’s a very typical look for a lesson/session plan right there. It’s kind of a fusion WB Plan/procedure page/notes bank. I can generate that in about 15 minutes with a BPOP and a good pen and few sips of powered coffee-like substance. Hard to say how I could possibly generate the same thing typing, or god forbid filling in the spaces between the bars lines of some form.

Once my shirt pocket black or blue pen has (typically) hogged most of the precious wide open real estate on the page, if available I’ll reach for a color or highlighter to punctuate the density with clear organizing signposts (1/2/3, A/B/C, etc). See that happening in the pic above. Then it’s really cooked and tasty for me.

Does this way of scaffolding my work…work for me? Well…to the degree I’m successful in delivering lessons and delivering sessions on TT course, I suppose the answer is yes. But I’m one bottle of soju too late to go down a full bodied self assessment of all THAT tonight. 😉

Let’s stay focused on the BPOP itself:

Advantages: feels good, lets my thinking flow and take its accurate shape easily as it does, efficient, durable, convenient, tactile, elicits creativity, avoids MORE screen time, etc.

Disadvantages: easily lost track of (let me tell you), more TOO efficient – leading to overplanning (let me tell you), unprofessional seeming…etc.?

Okay, so to wrap this up….I’ll be honest. Brutally honest: I abhor forms. I really, really do. Lesson plan forms are not a little bit disgusting to me. Lesson reflection forms? Utterly revolting, can I confess this to you dear reader?

Here’s an example “hot” reflection form, with Qs, trainee response, and a comment from me in blue.

It’s not just the reflection that’s flat there – it’s my feedback too. It all exists in the tepid confines of a ostensibly inspiring set of formal questions and little narrow spaces you type into.

There’s much more to say about this last point about reflection, but…I’ll just say I’d rather a blank piece of paper be used for this, too…and thus end this blog post about being a BPOPP. (More about reflection & blank papers specifically in my upcoming talk at Thailand TESOL (in January), “Reclaiming Creativity in Teacher Reflection” to be sure).

So…let’s just let it ring from the rooftops:


4 thoughts on “In Praise of Papyrus

  1. I really related to your post as I also am a BPOPP. Every time someone takes the bus in our city, the machine prints out a small receipt which many people discard in a box adjacent to the driver. I soon realized that these slips of paper were actually very useful especially as they fit perfectly into my shirt pocket and started taking handfuls every time I would ride the bus. Having these blank pieces really helps me organize my day and keep track of the little thing that come up that I need to remember.
    Furthermore, in my previous life as an academic librarian, we constantly would divide all of our scrap paper into eighths so we could write the call numbers on them to give to our patrons.
    By the way, I also refuse to wear shirts without pockets and make sure to always have a pen handy.
    It’s so nice to know that there are other BPOPPs out there. We should start a movement!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not really me, but I appreciate others who do this. I tend to be a write-notes-on-the-handout itself (or keep-all-on-Gdoc as I aim for paperlessness) kind of guy myself. I do frustrate myself when there is no pen handy in my bag, however.

      Liked by 1 person

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