Slice of Life: The Boy Who Wants to Hit Delete

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I’ve had a conversation a few times with one of my students that goes along the lines of something like this.

“Mr. H, can I trash all of my writing?”

“What? No. Of course not. Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know. My Google account seems full of files. Can I get rid of them?”

“You don’t need to do that. First of all, your school Google account has plenty of space — more than you will probably ever need. Second, I want you to be able to look back when you graduate high school and see what writing you did in sixth grade. This account will follow you for the next seven years.”


“And third, we will be working on a digital writing portfolio this Spring, pulling pieces from the entire year, to showcase your work. If they are in the trash, you can’t easily find them.”

“Oh. Ok.”

I’ve had at least three iterations of this same conversation with this same student over the last four months or so. He is an avid technology user, and he has benefitted from our extensive work with technology to improve his writing. I’m not sure why he feels the need to delete his files in his Google account. It clearly is on his mind.

I suspect it is not so much to do with his feelings about his writing — which was my first thought, as writing does not come naturally to him but he works hard on every assignment — and more to do with the untidiness of the Google architectural design system. Even with folder systems, the Google digital file architecture can be tricky and confusing to navigate.

Yesterday afternoon, at the bus loop, he told me he wasn’t sure anymore if he wants to be an engineer. I told him I was surprised to hear him say that, and that I thought he would make a fantastic engineer — he loves to design and build things, and solve problems — and when he asked me what kind of engineer I thought he would become, I said: architectural engineer.

Later, thinking of our conversations about files and computers, I wondered if he might be the one to finally solve the problems of curating digital content in meaningful ways for all of us as a networking engineer or something.

Maybe so.

Peace (don’t delete),


  1. Oh I have those same conversations with my sixth graders! Don’t delete!!! Love this peek into a conversation with you and a student.

  2. I can empathize with this student, as my Google Drive files at work seem to multiply overnight, and searches for specific items are often frustrating. I like the idea of having the student look at the structure of his organization from a design standpoint; maybe by lessening the “clutter”, he would feel better about saving his work.

    • Chris, I’d like to say thank you for something you didn’t even know you did. You have posted the 10,000th comment at my blog. I will be writing more about that tomorrow. If I had fireworks, they’d be going up over you head right now. Or unicorns dancing in the street with you. Or maybe we’d sit down to a nice cup of tea or coffee. Thank you.

  3. This is certainly a different reason than the reasons some of my students always want to delete or erase their work. This really shows how well you know your students and encourage them. Nice.

  4. I empathize with your young student. Sometimes delete does sound inviting… The cluttered feeling can be stifling and overwhelming… I’ve been thinking about spring cleaning my files the way we do closets… but the task is a bit daunting and I’m not sure what I would gain, and afraid of what I might lose.

  5. I love the twists and turns this slice takes based on the initial dialogue. As a short term band-aid, maybe your student could use a folder titled gone-but-not-forgotten to help winnow his more traveled paths?

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