Letting Go in the Name of Book Love

letting go

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.

pro con

This is a real picture of my real notebook.  Please don’t judge the fact that I give myself pep talks within my P/C Lists.


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.
  • 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.



5 thoughts on “Letting Go in the Name of Book Love

  1. Amy Rasmussen March 17, 2017 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Both Erika and Amy state the effects of the book love we hope to inspire in our students: sharing the books they love and having authentic experiences around those books. When our students become the sharing type, like your pen pals, we know we’ve accomplished something real and powerful. That is why we do what we do, and it’s quite possibly the best thing a teacher can ever do.


  2. Erika B. March 17, 2017 at 8:08 am Reply

    Recently, a students’ grandmother became the victim of a stroke. My student has been grappling with the unease and sadness that comes with not being able to communicate with her grandmother in ways that feel cognizant…and simply, the way they ‘used to feel’ – with dialogue.

    So, we decided that sending her home with two copies of the same piece of literature would help ‘re’connect her and her grandmother…if they couldn’t speak with one another, they could read together; my student (who’s deficiency in reading never holds her back from pushing forward), the reader and Grandma, the listener.

    We were satisfied with our plan.

    As she was leaving class, on her way out, “Ms. Bogdany, my boyfriend finished the book you sent me home with. What should we bring him next? Actually, he really enjoyed the book about Hurricane Katrina…lets looks for another one that’s also is about that.”

    Love. Love. Love Booklove!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessica Paxson March 19, 2017 at 5:04 pm Reply

      I love this story! Thank you so much for sharing. It’s awesome that books became such a concrete solution to a problem with connection. I feel like we teachers always preach that stories connect us to one another, but what a cool story to show how that’s true!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy Estersohn March 16, 2017 at 7:25 am Reply

    When my students loan my books to younger siblings after they finish them …. that’s a polite way of saying I’ll never see the book again. On the pro side, when I teach the younger sibling, I already have an inventory of younger sibling’s reading past. And I get a chance to bug the younger sibling about returning the book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jessica Paxson March 19, 2017 at 5:03 pm Reply

      Ha! That is so funny. I have students with older siblings who recommend books to them. It’s the best kind of respect and admiration!


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