Let’s Pick a Fight

MalalaWorkshop teaching ruined my life.

I 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 into a shape that looks a whole lot like a lesson you can use in the classroom.  ALL. THE. TIME.

Chipotle bags look like artful argument.  The newest best seller list looks like a lesson on what people in our society are craving at the moment.  The tweets of the President, and everyone’s tweets about him, look like an examination of how people spend their time, and whether or not that helps them accomplish their purpose.

I listen to podcasts on the weekend.  I have a rule that they CANNOT be podcasts about teaching.  One MUST separate the weekend from all things planning and brain-spaghetti-nonsense, right?  Well, as I’ve taken to listening to every single back-episode of Donald Miller’s Building a Storybrand Podcast, once again, I cannot help but pull fodder for teaching practice from his marketing framework.

Donald Miller is the author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (I can hear you all saying, Ohhh! That’s why that sounds familiar).  His company, podcast, and newly released book focus on the fact that our brains are wired for story (hello, Newkirk, anyone?) and utilizing the general framework of a story in your marketing plan will help you grow your business.

Makes sense, right?

The specific focus of the episode I listened to this weekend was THE VILLAIN.

Miller argued that you are doing your business a disservice if you have not chosen a villain.  Every good story has a struggle, so why not intentionally choose what you are fighting against?

It made me think of our classrooms.  Sometimes I think unintentional villains sneak in between the four walls we call home many more hours than we’d like to admit.

The unspoken villain in my classroom–I hate to admit–often seems to be the hard work associated with the learning.  Students claim they want to learn and grow, but they forget that the learning and growing process is somewhat painful, if we’re doing it right.

It made me think of our students.  The students I teach have many villains they never seemed to ask for, and have no idea how to overcome on their own.  Many students don’t feel like the hero in their own story, but rather an innocent bystander flattened in the crossfire.

It made me think of my own villains.  Rather than utilizing my super powers to fight off the evil demons of a future world full of uninformed citizens, I often spend all my power fighting against time, against what I wish my students knew when they got to me, against the fact that I only get 32 minutes for lunch that I typically have to trudge through working anyway.

So, in the true 3TT fashion, I’m writing a blog post not to offer solutions but rather to ask all of you–my wonderful, smarter-than-me colleagues–a question.

How can we make sure that we’re choosing a villain for our classrooms rather than letting the default win out?  How can we assist our students in identifying their own villains to slay so that they can eventually decide their own fight as well?  How can we shift our focus from the villains that overtake us as teachers in a broken system, and focus our powers on the things that need saving–or at least the empowerment to save themselves?

We would love to hear your wonderful thoughts in the comments, so please feel free to share!  I’m going to be talking with my colleagues in my own school, and if you do the same, let us know what they say!

Jessica Paxson teaches English IV, AP Lang, and Creative Writing in Arlington, TX.  She is an unexpected Marvel Comics fan, thanks to her older brother always hogging the remote when they were kids.  She is currently picking a fight against the curse of perfection, and attempting to embrace real life and all it’s messiness (Jessica Jordana). Her kryptonite is when the coffee runs out before ordering more on Amazon, and her secret weapon is her writer’s notebook.  You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @jessjordana to follow along with her many villain-battling antics!


6 thoughts on “Let’s Pick a Fight

  1. […] and buzzing minds about the opportunities that Readers and Writers workshop afford. From choice to challenge, talk to Twitter, and many, many elements in between, we explore, question, wrestle with, and […]


  2. mrsturnerblog October 11, 2017 at 8:38 am Reply

    Yes–time seems to be my villain. There’s not enough time to do all the things I want, to grade the things I assign, to keep everything moving forward while I do that grading, to spend time with my family, to sleep.

    My real villain should be apathy, though. That’s the thing that eats at me most. Now to figure out how to solve that!


    • Jessica Paxson October 12, 2017 at 6:35 am Reply

      APATHY. Oof. That’s a big one. Do you think, with older students, those two villains work together? Maybe they are so apathetic because they feel like they’re out of time? I bet they would not admit to this, but it may be a subconscious reason for the lack of drive.


      • mrsturnerblog October 12, 2017 at 7:59 am Reply

        Yes, definitely. For my Juniors, so many of them feel so stressed about the huge workload (since this is when most of them start taking AP classes and some AP classes feel rigor=excessive work) that they stall themselves out and end up doing nothing. How do you combat that?


  3. Amanda Palmer (@AmandaPalmer131) October 11, 2017 at 8:28 am Reply

    GREAT post! Your words have my synapses firing. I’m making so many connections to teaching and leading… way more than my brain can handle at my current level of coffee consumption. 3TTT is on fire this week!


    • Jessica Paxson October 12, 2017 at 6:34 am Reply

      Amanda, I love it! Thanks for reading and thinking intentionally about your students. My synapses are still firing, and I am attempting to get all of it down on paper before the ideas fly away!


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