I have been keeping a journal off and on since I was kid because, as everyone knows, sometimes you just need to talk to someone who isn’t going to talk back. You can find famous examples and samples here and here.
|I wish my handwriting were that nice.|
Nowadays, I keep a very specific type of journal. In it, I write about how what happens inside and outside the classroom affects my students and how I and my students interact with the activities, materials, and technology I/we select. The effects of keeping this journal have been profound which is in line with research:
The classroom can be a chaotic place. Sitting down at the end of the day and recapping what happened leads to some surprising realizations. Sometimes you realize the activities would have been more productive if they had been done in a different order, maybe “Abdul” should have worked with “Yuki” instead of “Beom-seok,” maybe that Seinfeld clip on personal space “The Close Talker” would have been more useful than the reading, this homework would have been more productive than that homework, etc. Since hindsight is 20/20, use it.
What happens when I assign different types of homework? How do my students react to peer review? What students don’t work well together? The more data you have, the more likely you are to notice that certain patterns will start to emerge and then you can decide what changes need to be made.
I can’t stress this enough: I am a much, much, much happier person when I’m not constantly thinking about what did and didn’t go well in the classroom. In order to stop thinking about the day, the day has to end. What better way to round off the day than to reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well and what could be done differently the next time? Additionally, we all know teachers talk about work A LOT! Keeping a journal is a great way to spare those around from the details of your day.
So those are some reasons why to keep a teaching journal but what about how to keep a journal? You have a couple of choices: analog or digital.
|Who hasn’t had one of these?|
While you could shell out anywhere from $10 – $30 for an actual Moleskine, you could just as easily buy a generic notebook from the discount section at your local stationary store. While analog is great for tactile people and those who love to draw, there is another way.
If you, like me, can type infinitely faster than you can write by hand, then keeping a digital teaching journal is the way to go. In addition to speed, if you store your journal in the cloud through Evernote, Google Drive, or Blogger you some other advantages.
As long as you have a device and an Internet connection, you have access to your journal.
Want to add audio, video or pictures to your teaching journal? It’s not a problem if it’s digital.
Ease of Recall
Remember that great activity you did with that class a few months ago using Tragic Prelude, but can’t quite remember how you set it up? What was that activity you used to teach past perfect continuous vs past perfect simple? Searching through a digital teaching journal is as easy as hitting “ctrl” + “F” (“command” + “F” on a Mac) and typing what you’re looking for.
Like Tim Ferriss likes to say, the good plan you follow is better than the perfect plan you don’t. Don’t try to shoot the moon and journal at the end of every lesson. Instead, just try to write down a few thoughts at the end of the day at first. Over time, you might find that you like it so much that you are spending 30 – 40 minutes at the end of every teaching day decompressing through journaling. If in the end it works for you, fantastic! You have found a way to improve your teaching and (probably) your mental health as well. If not, that’s great too! You have tried another way to improve your teaching which proves you have a growth mindset, meaning you are destined to improve.