The Team Pasch Guide to Essay Domination
Whether it is one page or ten pages, the word essay drives fear into the hearts of many students.Writing essays can be super stressful, and as much as I hate to admit it, it can be more stressful to write an essay when you don't have a plan.
Have you ever watched a child put off an essay to last minute, only to complete it in far less time than they spend complaining about it? What is the power the essay has over students that causes them to turn into snarling beasts? Ask any student if they have started their essay and I am willing to bet you might receive a snappish “I’m working on it!” in return.
I work with students in middle school, high school and college and many of them struggle when they have to write an essay. This struggle goes beyond procrastination or writer's block because procrastination always has a root cause. When we talk about essays, that root cause is usually lack of a roadmap.
On episode 011 of my podcast, School Counselor Gone Rogue, we discuss the thesis statement in detail, but in this blog post, I want to dig into how to help even the most essay resistant student, take charge of their writing. That's right, we're going to go over ALL the tools a student needs to build a rocking essay. I like to call it the Team Pasch Guide to Essay Domination, because who doesn't want to bring the pain to an essay like former WWE superstar The Rock? So whip out your people's eyebrow and let's dig in!
The Phases of Essay Domination
Phase 1 -The PocketBook
I'm willing to bet at some point you've been forced to read a book you had no desire to read. In addition to reading this terrible book, you've been tested on it, had to write on it, and had to take notes on it. That is a hard task to complete even when we ENJOY the text. When we ask students to complete these steps when they hate the book...bring on the missing assignments and low grades!
That’s why I use The PocketBook to help my students hone their focus when reading- especially when reading a book they would rather use as a coaster than a tool for learning.
If you are horribly bored by a novel, don’t linger in it, GET IN AND GET OUT!
The PocketBook helps students find the key information for each chapter that you will need to refer to for a test or essay. With a detailed vision, you can get through the chapter faster and with 75% less pain than reading it blindly.
Because here is the ancient secret I only share with my students- having a plan when you read a text helps!
OK, it’s really not a secret, it’s probably the same thing teachers told you in school AND what they are telling your child now!
But are kids listening to their suggestions?
I ignored my teachers' suggestions and wrote essays that took painfully long amounts of time to write, read books with glazed eyes and received the grades to reflect it.
It wasn’t until college that I caved and tried ideas such as <gag> outlining a paper. I was far enough away from the judging eyes of my teachers that they couldn’t hear me whisper “Oh, this is sooooo much easier this way.”
So, I tell my students now- they can rock it the hard way or they can try it the Team Pasch way. Thanks to the sworn oath school counselors and ICF certified coaches take on a mountain, with fire and chants to protect client confidentiality, my student's light-bulb moments are safe with me. OK, none of the ritual stuff is true... except for the ethical obligation to protect client confidentiality... but a fire would be pretty cool. The point is, students have a safe place to vent their frustrations about essay planning, create their own systems and not be judged when things succeed or fail.
Phase 2 - The Essay Roadmap
How many students refuse to write an outline? *Looks around guiltily to see if I am the only one raising my hand*
Phew, I am not alone!
One reason students refuse to do the outline is that it seems like MORE work and NOT a helpful tool. We want to do it our way, not your way.
Again, I have to apologize to my high school and college teachers for refusing to turn in outlines. I can hear those teachers saying in my head “You were only hurting yourself.” Hmph.
Part II of the Team Pasch Guide to Essay Domination is the Writing the Essay form. It’s like a baby outline. In fact, the box to write your outline is the smallest one on the page! So you really have no excuses to make one!
The goal is to force you to reduce everything to one page so you don’t feel overwhelmed believing that essay pre-work is going to add hours to your life and take away your time to binge watch Friends on Netflix. Side note - Why are so many of my students watching this show? It was terrible the first time-end rant*
You don't want to start your essay without a plan, so before we dive into writing your essay, we need to look at the books or resources you need, the timeline to create your essay, the points you want to make and your thesis statement. The page can be typed directly into so you can copy and paste (you are welcome), and store it right on your computer. Or do it the retro way and print it out.
Phase 3 - The Essay Check Points
Finally, if you need help with your time management - we have the Essay Checkpoint. And yes, that is totally a reference to the 1980’s video game.
Your essay is broken down into checkpoints. Each checkpoint contains 1-4 easy steps to complete before you move on to the next checkpoint. Do not jump ahead, do not lump all the steps into one day. If you follow each checkpoint you could have your essay complete in 5 days and probably spend no more than an hour each day (if that).
The Bottom Line
If a student wants to argue that essay writing is pointless, I won't debate them. Writing may have as little do with their life goals as linear equations have to do with my life. Yet, I had to do it.
Look at it as a challenge. It’s not about remembering how Tess of the D’Ubervilles relates to the #metoo movement. It’s figuring out how to create a system that rocks and helps you complete seemingly pointless tasks ( FYI as a lit major, I will never say that reading analysis is a waste).
The most powerful thing a student can do when faced with a task they don’t care for is to find a system that helps them achieve it. That is a life lesson that doesn’t get a grade, but will serve you well at any stage of life!