What’s in Your Notebook?

Emily Needham doesn't let class rain on her doodling parade.

BY RACHEL TARINELLI

Ciara Cebollero’s doodles impress her teachers.

Not every high school student is very good at staying relaxed in class. After all, there’s only so many consecutive minutes one can sit through a presentation without getting a little fidgety.

When struck with boredom, some click their pens, while others fiddle with the ring on their finger. Daydreaming, hair twirling, leg bouncing, and stealthy phone usage are other common methods of distraction in class, and to many high schoolers, a favorite way of passing time during class is doodling. Some prefer to fill the margins with geometric shapes and lines, while others’ notebooks might be scattered with flowers and leaves.

Many doodlers have experienced the disapproval of teachers after seeing the scribbles on their worksheets, because it might indicate that they aren’t paying much attention. However, many students find drawing in class to increase their focus and keep them from fidgeting.  

Although doodling squares or spirals may not have all that much of a backstory, much of the time there is more to a drawing than what meets the eye.  Five students at Canton High School shared what they were drawing in their notebooks, and the results shed light on the diverse and unique creations that appear alongside their schoolwork.

Tiny pictures help Emily Needham focus.

Freshman Emily Needham uses doodling to help her focus during class.  “If I don’t doodle, I don’t pay attention,” Emily shared, acknowledging that multitasking helps her pay attention.  “With drawing, every time I go into a new class I have to tell [my teacher that] when I’m drawing in class please know that I’m not being rude; I’m actually paying attention more. It helps me focus. Some people, in order to listen they have to scribble. For me it’s like I draw tiny little pictures; it’s how I function.”

Sophomore Len Lange has a variety of reasons to support her doodling habit.   “I’ve been doodling on papers since about sixth grade, probably. Basically, it’s half distraction, half focus. If we’re working on review or something I already know I’ll do it to pass time. Otherwise, it’s kind of a focus thing, like something that’ll keep me from falling asleep in class.”

Julia Tarinelli, a senior, believes that doodling in class “ is great. It helps me with life. ”  She describes her process as one of visual free association. “I drew a circle, and I thought about what I could make it into, and I decided to do a frog because I like frogs, and it was funny so I did more. I showed it to people sitting at my table and they liked it.”  Although she used to get scolded as a child for doodling during class, “ now no one cares. I think it’s because I got glasses. Nobody suspects me of not paying attention.”

Sophomore Ciara Cebollero relates how her various teachers react to her doodling habit. “I started doodling this [person] during Modern Global Studies and [the teacher] didn’t yell at me for it. Usually I draw during math, [and] Mrs. Rodriguez always yells at me, like, ‘That doesn’t look like math, but it’s nice!’

Jackson Bidmead, Sophomore, uses the ‘flour sack method’ to draw figures, which he acknowledges “look more like pillows so I call them pillows. I make them into little personas, so I have a dead one, I have a Superman one, and I have them portray my emotions in the class. I do a sleeping one for most of my classes, because… I care so much about school.”

Julia Tarinelli’s free associative doodling.
Pillows are Jackson Bidmead’s favorite doodles.
Doodling keeps Len Lange from snoozing in class

Do you doodle in class? Share your favorite doodle story in the comments!