School Business Leadership

The inside of a ping pong ball

The Inside of a Ping Pong ball

Following a twitter request from @sbl365 for blog inspiration, my suggestion was, perhaps rather a challenging, ‘The inside of a ping pong ball’.

If you’ve read @sbl365 blogs, you’ll know that she would be more than capable of accepting the gauntlet.

However, this wasn’t some random, plucked out of the air recommendation, but rather a title that has been resonating with me since my early days of secondary school.

The stuff of legend

Legend has it that an Art Teacher, supervising detention at my school in the eighties, instructed a particularly naughty boy in my year to write four sides of A4 on ‘the inside of a ping pong ball’. We “good” girls giggled about it for weeks, I remember. The fact that the Art teacher was well-respected and liked by students added to the gossip of an unspeakably mean punishment.

In true folklore style, the story continues that the detention essay was actually completed to the teachers satisfaction, forging a mutual respect between Teacher and student.

What could he have written?

For some reason, this story has stayed with me. What could he have written about? How could he have stretched it over four sides of A4? Was he actually a creative writing genius? Where is he now, I wonder?

I didn’t actually master the ability to write a decent essay until I went to college and someone taught me how to do it. Maybe I just wasn’t listening on the day of that lesson or maybe teachers (and I did English at A Level), back when Adam was a boy, didn’t consider it a skill in itself… It really is!

Once you know how to structure a piece of writing you can, I would argue, write about pretty much anything. The challenge, especially as a blogger, is to make it interesting and informative, right to the end.

Over the years, my writing… (I hesitate to say “ability” because I’m very aware that I’m still learning) …experience has helped me get jobs, get a place on (and graduate from) the MBA course I wanted, and now helps me maintain my own wellbeing in the form of this blog.

So, what to write?

So, back to the inside of a ping pong ball. The possibilities are endless.

  • Air (obviously) – it’s not a vacuum and it’s not under pressure – it’s just air. What makes up ‘air’?
  • Volume – how much air are we talking? What is the calculation used to measure it?
  • Performance – How does the air inside effect the performance of the ping pong ball? Would it be more effective if it contained something else?
  • Temperature – How does the air in a ping pong ball expand or contract depending on the external temperature? What happens if you freeze or heat it?
  • History – who invented the ping pong ball and how has the design and performance evolved over time?
  • Age – How is the air effected by the age of the ping pong ball? Does it deteriorate? How would you find this out?
  • Foreign bodies – Are ping pong balls produced under clinical conditions or could bugs, dust and other detritus find its way in during production?
  • Comparison – how might you judge the performance of one ping pong ball against another and do its contents effect this?
  • Stories – this would only be limited by the writers imagination as to what could be contained in a ping pong ball (whole galaxies?)
Just google it…

Of course nowadays, you could probably google all of that but remember, this was the early eighties!

My (perhaps overly laboured) point is that it is possible to write four A4 sides on ‘the inside of a ping pong ball’ (without needing to know or communicate any of the answers) and make it entertaining too.

The question is though…unless you’re in detention…why would you want to?

If you are interested in creative writing, why not read Victor’s Watch?

3 thoughts on “The inside of a ping pong ball”

  1. Hi Anna, this actually happened to me! It was 1984/5 Central London – so probably someone else than your friend. Btw,I wish this SBM site showed the post date. Anyway, it was four sheets, and after the initial shock was quite an enjoyable and fast exercise. Why would you do this unless coerced to do so. I’d say lots of reasons – but better for folks to try and see for selves. Henry.


    1. Hi Henry, that is so funny! No, I was in the South West but it was around the same time so maybe my Art teacher had a friend in your school. Mr Lovesey was his name (I think – it’s quite a while ago now!) It’s a story that has stayed with me all this time. I love writing now.
      I’ll look into showing the post date. I hadn’t noticed it wasn’t on there. Anna


  2. Hi Anna. My husband just told me the story of this punishment, except he had to write 4pages on “life inside a ping pong ball”. Had to Google and came across your article. (there’s a song ;)) I too think it’s such a great writing assignment. Thanks for sharing!
    Bee (South Africa)


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