Last week a friend and I presented some different writing techniques during class that differed from traditional writing in the classroom. One of the topics that we discussed was journaling.
Journaling is quite personal for me. While I haven’t had much time the past couple of years to keep a journal as a part of my daily routine, journaling has gotten me through some pretty tough times in my life.
I’m sure I responded to journal prompts all throughout school, but I really began using it as a tool for expression in the 8th grade. I had a ELA teacher that made us (yes, that’s how it felt back then) write in a journal every day at the start of class. [Now that I’m a teacher I can look back and realize that it was probably part of her classroom management routine because it was the first thing that we did when we entered the room, and as eighth graders who ruled the school, if we had any extra time at all we spent it chatting, flirting, or causing trouble. Responding to the journal prompt not only made us write, but it gave us something productive to do while we changed classes IF we got there early.]
The thing that was different about our journals in this class is that we wrote about real stuff. We didn’t create imaginary narratives everyday or respond to repetitive “What would you do if…” prompts. We got to write about our lives. We got to question what was happening in the world around us. Some of the writing that we “had to do” was creative and imaginative, but there was a balance that, for me at least, fostered a love for writing.
Another great thing was that my teacher responded to us personally in our journals. Not every day or even every week, but when it was my turn to hand in my journal I remember being excited. The feedback that we got was more than “great job” or a smiley face, it extended our thinking or challenged us. It was great.
Reflecting on this now as a teacher I imagine that not only was it a tool for classroom management and routines, etc, but it was also a great way for my teacher to get to know her students. As an elementary teacher I am fortunate to only have 24 students and I have them all day long. I have tons of opportunities to create relationships with my students, but as a middle school teacher I imagine it is a bit tougher. Journaling is a fantastic way to get to know students on a more personal and real level.
Writing went beyond the classroom for me and I began writing at home. I wrote about every day stuff and also hard to deal with teenage stuff. I created poems, short stories, memoirs, etc. if you could write it or write about it I it in my journal. Then you know, life happens. College was busy and journaling took a back seat until tragedy hit my family and my grandfather, who was a rock for my family and much of our community had a massive stroke and there was so much uncertainty. Not knowing how to deal with the situation I began writing again. Sometimes I would write about what was going on, but mostly I would just write. I wrote about my day, I wrote about what I was reading, I wrote about things that made me mad. Journaling became a coping mechanism. It was a tool that I was given so long ago that got me through really hard times.
Journaling was a tool that I was taught in school. Its a tool that I can teach my students. I return to school tomorrow after our three week break and we will begin journaling. Like my teacher in 8th grade, I am going to assign journaling daily and students can do it as they arrive in class or as they finish assignments early. They will have a common question or prompt that they can write to, or they can free write. While I am excited, I am still brainstorming the other management issues that will arise and have a few questions. Will they use their writing notebooks or a separate journal altogether? How often will I respond? Will I be able to keep up with it and give meaningful feedback? Will it become a tool for anyone else or am I just an anomaly? Will it deter students from writing and become just one more thing? Am I crazy?
Hopefully journaling will become a success in our class and will eventually be another way for students to use our class blog, but more than that I hope to give someone, even if it’s just one kid, a tool that they can use in their real life whether it’s simply for the love of writing or to help them cope with the world that they’re a part of. Either way I look forward to it! Updates coming soon!
Do you journal? If so, where did you learn the habit?