Workshop: Going Sane Feels Like Going Crazy

Three Teachers Talk

My life altered in many ways last summer.

I attended an Abydos (formerly, New Jersey Writing Project) training for writing workshop.

One of my incredible mentors, Valerie, suggested Book Love as I searched and pleaded that there MUST BE a better way than the way I taught my first year.

My work bestie, Michelle, encouraged me to rekindle my creative life with The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.

In August, I jumped headfirst into creating a classroom environment entirely different than the one I felt as though I clumsily stumbled into the year prior.  As I reveled in the joy of matching kids with books, watched as they surpassed what even they thought they could do, held firmly to my principles when questioned by many-a-colleague or administrator, I found myself stuck on Julia’s words one weekend.

“It’s important to remember that, at first flush, going sane feels just like going crazy.”

-Julia Cameron

I have to admit, I’ve felt much more CRAZY than SANE in this adventure in teaching and learning.  Anyone with me?

A few weeks ago, I sat in the only true workshop (though many claimed to be so) session in my AP Summer Institute training.  It was a fantastic event with many incredible educators.  As we know from Amy’s many rants, advanced educators have a hard time wrapping their minds around workshop.  I couldn’t help but chuckle as the presenter, Jacqueline Stallworth, fielded the question of many steam-eared AP teachers:

But do you have a list for them to choose from?  How do you know they’ll choose right?

How do you know they read if you haven’t read the book?

And Amy’s favorite: They won’t ever read these books if we don’t make them!

Well, I was “made to read them,” and I didn’t.  Neither did Shana–at least not in high school.

We know the vast majority of students are not reading. So what if you could get them to read?

As we at Three Teachers Talk always say, it’s about teaching the reader, not the reading.  It’s about teaching the writer, not the writing.  Why does that seem so crazy?

I’m increasingly convinced that workshop–while backed by reputable, extensive research and proven time and again to advance the WHOLE student, not just the test-taker–is still new to many educators.

In true summer fashion, I’ve binge-watched episodes of Quantico.  In season one, Alex says, “You are willing to blow yourself up for people to see your truth instead of helping them find it for themselves.”

I’m hoping that this year, I can step back and realize it won’t work for teachers until they find it of their own accord, try it themselves, ask questions and realize there is not always an answer.

I’m hoping that I can do less of the “blowing up,” and more of the “helping [teachers and students] find their own truth” rather than simply taking on mine.

What makes you feel crazy as a workshop teacher?  Let us know in the comments!  We are here for you, reading/writing warriors!

Jessica Paxson teaches AP Language and Composition, English IV, and Creative Writing in Arlington, TX.  She is currently pursuing her Masters in Educational Psychology and GT education, and dreaming of a home free of construction materials and boxed-up books.  If you are a fan of candid vulnerability, you can catch more of that over at Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @jessjordana.


6 thoughts on “Workshop: Going Sane Feels Like Going Crazy

  1. […] a final assessment of our learning, I asked my students to think like artists whose works would be displayed in a museum, and to bring in something that represented their […]


  2. […] mean that in the best way possible.  A few months ago, I talked about how going sane feels a lot like going crazy.  Part of that venture into a new version of sanity is that the wider world starts to bend and bow […]


  3. Shana Karnes July 21, 2017 at 6:20 am Reply

    I LOVE YOU! So many moments in this post made me smile–first, I’m adding The Artist’s Way to my Amazon cart, stat. How have I never heard of that?!

    Also–Amy’s “many rants,” picturing “steam-eared” AP teachers, a reminder about my sassy non-reader high school self, and a mental image of you exploding with booklove in front of your students.

    These and many other reasons are why I hold you as one of the most valuable people in my life.


  4. kim July 16, 2017 at 8:47 pm Reply

    Ah, summer. Finally found time to read your post while reflecting on, dreaming of and planning for next year (“Oh, you teachers. You have it so easy, with no work during the summer!”) Thank you for this. I’m the outlaw workshop teacher at my school and so tired of going it alone…by June I was ready to throw in the towel and yet…and yet…know in my heart of hearts and from experience it’s best practice…deep breath…it’s only July…I’ll be ready again by August…with a little help from the blogs I read.


  5. Smith-Chavira Terri July 12, 2017 at 8:44 am Reply

    Thank you ~ my thoughts exactly!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mrsturnerblog July 12, 2017 at 8:37 am Reply

    Love this! I’m trying to organize it in my head and see how it’ll work out with my 11th graders this year. I was sorta workshop-lite last year with them, especially with reading, but I want to dive into the writing side this year. It’s scary, though, and there aren’t a lot of high school-level books for guidance. (Hurry up and write that book, Amy!!) More posts like this with nuts and bolts, please! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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