I am a super fan of Pro/Con lists, although the true reflection of these lists never seem to govern my life as much as the making of them does. Let me explain.
I can always think of a million reasons not to do something, but if I’ve already decided I want to do it, the Pros generally outweigh the Cons because of just that–weight. Sometimes the reasons TO do something are fewer, but are so weighty that they can’t be ignored.
Workshop was that for me.
Here are a few Cons of workshop from my list at the beginning of this year:
- I’ll be on my own, pretty much.
- I’m young, and everyone will think I’m just trying to rock the boat.
- WHERE WILL I GET THE BOOKS?!!
- Once I get those books, likely via my own dwindling bank account, how will I keep track of the books? I already go broke on borrowed pencils–and those cost…well… can anyone break a penny?
- What if I haven’t read enough to recommend enough?
Sure, all of these were true then, and are still true now. However, I think the weight of the Pros on this list were hard to ignore:
- I could truly build something that would become a lifelong skill that carries students through the rest of their lives as learners.
- Great readers have the potential to be great writers. You can’t do what you’ve never seen (at least not well).
- Reading in builds empathy. Reading far and wide builds empathy far and wide.
To be honest, the biggest fear on that list of Cons was the idea of losing books. We teachers, just as Lisa pointed out yesterday, are notorious for going broke for the cause.
I started workshop anyway. As soon as I met 3rd Period this year, Terri-Rose quickly became the actualization of my worst nightmare. On the first day when we checked out books, she insisted on taking three home to peruse because she couldn’t make a decision. My first endeavor into workshop, I wasn’t quite sure if that was a thing. I gritted my teeth and slowly expelled a perfectionistic breath, attempting to inhale a free spirit (something which usually doesn’t hover near me much less inhabit my own body). She held three of my shiny new bestsellers bought with my own money after the small grant I obtained already ran out. I told her she could do that as long as she signed them out and brought two of them back to me the next time. I glanced over my shoulder to my then-meager amount of books after the first checkout. Who knew 300 books could go so quickly? I might never see them again.
But, you know what, I did. Most of them. Terri-Rose still hasn’t learned to make a decision. Whenever she finishes one book, she takes two more. She’ll get halfway through one, and then give it back to me.
I’ll ask, “You didn’t like this one?”
She’ll say, “I do, but I want someone else to be able to read it while I finish this other one.” We developed a system with her book marks. She likes to use candy wrappers (always pristine) to mark her place, so she’ll hand me the candy wrapper, and I’ll put a sticky note on it with the book title and page number to hand back to her when she’s ready for that book again. It’s a nice system.
The other day, she came into class raving about a book. It’s a normal occurrence. She’s never quiet about something she loves–a quality I’m hoping to channel more in the future. She wanted to barrel her way through Everything, Everything because the movie is slated to release in May.
Then came the request.
“Mrs. Paxson, I have this pen pal in Weatherford and we’ve started talking about books. I told her about Everything, Everything, and the movie coming out and now she really wants to read it. Would it be okay if I mailed it to her to read and then she mails it back before school is over? I can even ask her to write a review for it before she sends it back!”
The exhale and inhale was quicker this time, mostly because I was leaping for joy inside at the desire to share the Book Love. I agreed to the terms of her proposal, and I can’t wait to get the book back with a long distance review.
All of those Cons, like I said before, still stand true. I’ve lost some books this year–probably five or six. But the weight of the Pros have grown heavier with success and small triumphs–more than I ever thought they might.
As I think of Terri-Rose, unable to make a decision, reading books halfway through and two at a time, always sharing with friends before she’s even close to done, I’m reminded of my own reading life. It’s a real one, not one for a grade or to check a box.
Then I think: Holy crap–it works.
What moments have surprised you with sharing #BookLove and watching it grow?
Jessica Paxson is an English IV and Creative Writing teacher in Arlington, TX. She frequently feels as though someone made a mistake in allowing her to hold the futures of over 100 teenagers in her jittery, over-caffeinated hands for the past two years. If you enjoy watching her make a fool of herself by being unbearably vulnerable, you can catch more of that over at www.jessicajordana.com. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @jessjordana.