Looking for a way to capture all the incredible moments you will have during your many years of teaching? Then make it a point to keep a daily or weekly journal. Journaling will keep your spirits up on the hard days and help you to discover insights that will improve your teaching practices. When researchers at Michigan State University studied teachers who kept journals, they found that "The teachers reported that they learned a great deal about their thinking and teaching." But until asked to keep a detailed report of their planning, "they did not realize how much thought and energy they put into it. In a sense, they newly appreciated themselves as professionals." Here are some tips to make the most of the process of journaling:
- Make regular entries. Get into the habit of writing often — at least once a week, but every day if possible.
- Set aside a certain time of the week or day for journal writing. Consider having your students keep journals, too, and work on yours at the same time. You'll be offering students a valuable experience, providing an effective model, and writing — all at the same time. Of course, give yourself the chance to write without interruptions and in private sometimes, too.
- Anything goes. If all you can do at first is complain about how difficult everything is, fine. Once that's off your chest, you'll probably be able to write more objectively and analyze what's going wrong. You'll probably even start noticing that a lot is going right.
- Record your growth and look at small successes. "Take the time, every day, to pat yourself on the back for the risks you have dared to take and all the things you are learning to do well," suggests teacher and author Jane Bluestein. Here are a few examples:
- My self-control seems to be improving. I kept my cool through a tough situation.
- I'm remembering to get each student's attention before talking.
- I'm smiling more.
- I am feeling comfortable with the faculty at my school. The teachers have become so supportive, and I am becoming more confident as a teacher.
- Try to target different aspects of your teaching to study in detail. Are you interested in offering equal time and attention to all students? Then keep track of your personal interactions each day. Make a list of the students you enjoy being around and those you don't. What are the characteristics you like? Write down those you don't. What are the characteristics you like or dislike? Write about it. Get it down in black and white where you can see it. Then try to assess where you can change.
- Keep track of your time allocations, both academic and nonacademic.
- Reread your journal entries occasionally. It's instructive, sometimes amusing, and usually encouraging to see how your concerns have changed over time.
This article was adapted from Learning to Teach...Not Just for Beginners: The Essential Guide for All Teachers by Linda Shalaway, © 2005, published by Scholastic.
This book is available in the Scholastic Teacher Store.
Linda Shalaway is the author of the book, Learning to Teach . . . Not Just for Beginners.