Which is why I’m writing this book. To think. To understand….I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them. Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood.
Early in my teaching career I decided to keep a journal of my thinking after each day of teaching. No matter how exhausted I was at the end of the day, no matter how well or badly the day went, I sat down and considered the following: What worked in that lesson? What didn’t work in that lesson? Did my students take what I wanted them to take from that lesson? More than any suggestion from a master teacher, more than any conference or workshop I attended, more than any professional book I have read this reflective log advanced my teaching more than anything else I have done in my career. It taught me the value of reflection. Kelly Gallagher, Write Like This.
I thought of these two quotes this week because I began keeping a dedicated teaching journal again. I’ve kept one before, but around two years ago, I began including thoughts on teaching in my regular journal. It seemed simpler at the time; having one comprehensive journal instead of separate ones for different topics. That thinking has changed now. When I arrived at my new school this week, I saw a brand new black journal lying on the desk and thought, “This is will be the teaching journal.”
I’m glad I did it. My previous entries about teaching were usually short and general things like “Good class. Lots of participation.” They didn’t say much because I’d usually be eager to write about other things. But with a dedicated book for teaching, there’s no need to cut observations or riffs short.
And like Gallagher writes above, I’ve been keeping track of classes and how they've gone. What was good, what was bad, who said something particularly interesting, who might need extra attention…it all goes in there. Maybe it’s overkill to write a half page or more for every class, but doing so has forced me to remember what happened and what I might do the same or differently in the future. The extra time means extra care goes into the lessons. I suppose that writing has cut into planning time, but then again, I find it difficult to plan for the future if I don’t understand the past or present. Like Toru the narrator writes in Norwegian Wood, writing’s something I have to do. It helped when teaching high school in America and it’s helping now in Korea.
Rock on, everyone. More posts are on the way.
*Keeping a journal helps satisfy one of Wisconsin’s 10 standards for teachers, which is that of being a reflective practititioner.