Thursday, July 29, 2010


"School is about to start and NO WAY do I want to make the same mistakes tha tI made last year. So I'm writing this guide to be sure I do things RIGHT."

~ Marissa Moss, Amelia's School Survival Guide

Last night I had a dream. My first teaching dream of the season. It seems early for the beginning-of-the-year dreams. School doesn't start until August 16 after all.

I had a teaching dream about journaling. Maybe it was Monday in the dream, but I was walking my class, reading over students' shoulders and doing at-the-elbow journal conferences. It must have been the first time I graded journals for that class or gave students journal feedback. The entries weren't going well. They were hazy in my dream. Students hadn't followed directions. I was feeling frustrated. It must have shown because a student interrupted my assessment and said, "Don't worry. Next time you'll give us better directions." My dream mind thought: Well, I didn't have students journaling last year, what do I expect. I'm rusty--I should have thought this through more. I didn't model the process for them. We didn't practice together. How could I have expected much if all I did was assign?

I had a dream about journaling and I woke up thinking about transparency. Like my wrist x-ray, how can I make teaching transparent--for teachers, for administrators, for parents but most importantly for students? How can I make what I want students to do transparent? How will I explain and clarify the processes I want students to learn? How will I model my own thinking, reading and writing practices?

When it comes to journaling with students, how will I set up their journals? In the past I've had students keep 2: an academic journal and a reading journal which changes or tries on different purposes throughout the year (reading journal, with a reading log, essay journal, creative journal). This year I think I'd like students to work from 1 journal. We can divide it into an academic journal (notes, ideas we process in class, early drafts, writing ideas, etc) and a reading journal (response, analysis, reflection, lists of what we've read).

Teaching dreams tend to get me questioning before the beginning of the year. I could follow the rabbit trails of ideas into the sunset, but it's summer and I have art supplies waiting.
I'm going to blog through my thinking this year. I hope you'll excuse my mess, but as I focus on my practice and developing transparency, I'm going to write it out. Below is a bit more thinking on journaling on paper or online. See what you think and then share it by leaving a comment.

Thinking About Digital Journals
I like a physical journal. It seems that no matter how much writing I do online, I still like to process on paper with colored pencils and black pens. I enjoy keeping my sketchbook journals. Not that students must take on my process. We don't have 1 to 1 access in class, so daily processing and note-taking are difficult to do digitally and cell phones, much to my dismay, are still forbidden. Still, if students used their own laptop in class (or if by some miracle I write a grant and get funding for a COW) we could keep digital versions.

As it is though, we'll start with the classic composition book and then I'd like to have students develop showcase pieces on blogs or online. That's what I'd like to do. Now, how can I get there? My district does not grant access to blogging platforms from school and students do not have their own blog spaces from the district. How can I work around that? How much control do teachers have or need to have over student content? Do we need to act as gate-keepers for kids or teach responsibility and step back?