“‘This, Harry, is the secret of our success,’ said George, patting the parchment fondly.”
“‘And what do I need with a bit of old parchment?’ said Harry. ‘A bit of old parchment!’ said Fred, closing his eyes with a grimace.” Have you ever considered the problematic nature of a plain piece of paper? A torn corner, writing in the margin or half page is evidence of your distractions and daydreams. Scribbles and doodles, words and credos all have purpose; yet, what about the handwritten notes to friends or the blindingly intimidating blank sheet of paper, which can result in students veering off course from the need to listen, focus, or complete an assignment? In preparation for the worrisome OWLs and NEWTs quickly approaching, the Harry Potter guide first discusses what happens when the blank parchment is tapped once with a wand and hears, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Are you a Fred Weasley, who enjoys making his peers laugh with humorous anecdotal comments, or perhaps a Ron, who needs to complain after class about the “loads” of homework? Each supportive character has a “coping mechanism” which helps him or her relax or manage internal or external stresses. Just consider. Draco Malfoy needed a quick break from work without feeling guilty; therefore, he whispered to his allies, while Lavender Brown, for instance, wrote notes to her friends. If you rely on others to ease your stress levels, they, too, are missing valuable instruction and peer questions and comments. While it’s important to recognize when you are avoiding work, try a new approach. Utilize that piece of parchment by writing at the top of the page obvious words, such as “focus,” “breathe,” or a phrase with multiple definitions, “Mischief Managed.” Today is the day to determine your weakness and find an alternative way to adapt to stress.
“The common room was almost empty. …Harry, Ron, and Hermione took their three favorite chairs at the fireside. …Harry gazed into the flames, feeling drained and exhausted. ‘Shall we do Snape’s stuff first?’ said Ron, dipping his quill into his ink. ‘The properties…of moonstone…and its uses…in potion-making,’ he muttered, writing the words across the top of his parchment as he spoke them. ‘There. So… what are the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion-making?’ But Hermione was not listening, she was squinting over into the far corner of the room where Fred, George and Lee Jordan were sitting…” Despite the characters’ names, the setting and the assignments, the situation may sound very familiar to you. It takes time for students to settle into “mono-tasking,” which can be defined as staying focused on one task until it is completed. While procrastination may be due to an impending long homework session, try working until one subject is completed; then, take a timed break to “apparate” into the kitchen or send a response via owl post. (Ron was smart to suggest the trio work on a more challenging assignment first. Yes, the final assignment should be your favorite subject.)
“Harry’s thoughts had drifted. The perfumed fire always made him feel sleepy and dull-witted. Though, he couldn’t help thinking about what she [Professor Trelawney] had just said to him. ‘I fear the thing you dread will indeed come to pass.’ But Hermione was right. He wasn’t dreading anything at all. Harry looked around; the whole class was staring at him. He sat up straight; he had been almost dozing off, lost in the heat and his thoughts.” While getting a good night’s sleep is one solution to daydreaming, another is to engage in a physical activity, such as twitching a foot or squeezing a ball in one hand.
“Harry hurried up to the third floor, slipping the Marauder’s Map out of his pocket as he went. A tiny dot was moving in his direction. Harry squinted at it. The minuscule writing next to it read…” The piece of parchment will always hold power. It can provide great information if bound into a book, change one person’s emotions from happy to angry, frightened to elated, and it has the power to reveal empowering words through your hand. “It’s our choices which show us who we really are, far more than our abilities.”