A veteran middle school science teacher shares how journaling “the old fashioned” way remains a convenient habit of reflective practice that impacts how he tweaks and designs each of his classes to best meet his students’ needs. Creating “parallel reflection writing” time with his students at the end of each class gives them all a chance to respond in the “heat of the moment.”
Despite the fact that Steve appreciates and utilizes a great deal of technology for planning and executing his biology and earth science classes, he shares that when it comes to reflecting daily, his moleskin writing journal remains “tried and true” for its accessibility. Steve admits to a packed schedule which leaves him little time for daily reflection. That said, he also believes that his ongoing success with a myriad of students over his 25 year tenure as a middle school teacher is closely tied to daily journal entries that inform how he proceeds the next day. Steve insists that choosing one or two essential reflective questions can make a huge difference in how he shifts his approach to his ever changing students and course materials. For Steve, it is the “heat of the moment” reflection that serves best in figuring out what is working/not working in his classroom. He ends each of his classes with a five minute written “check in” for both his students and himself. While the questions can vary, Steve consistently finds it helpful for his students to respond to the seemingly simple question, “What were we doing in this lesson and why were we doing it?” While his students are responding in their notebooks, Steve takes this parallel writing time for his own reflection on the class, usually utilizing the following questions as his prompts: “What worked in this lesson? How do I know? What would I do the same or differently if I could reteach this lesson? Why?” Steve finds it helpful to allot one page per day/class, thus providing space to add notes, ideas, and further reflections when he returns to the journal at the end of the teaching day. With five classes a day and hundreds of interactions with students in between, creating these mini reflection moments has provided Steve with a sustainable means of keeping track of his thoughts. He also finds it immensely helpful to hear his students’ reflections on the class. “Reflecting on their reflections” becomes another way for Steve to assess if his students are actually meeting the learning goals of the class. Steve insists that as his students become trained in this “check in” they take their work more seriously as they acquire skills in becoming more accountable for their own learning.
While Steve largely feels that his journals are a safe, sacred, and private space for reflection, he has recently considered ways to share some of his writing – both to guide teachers interested in the process and to exist as valuable artifacts for his evidence folder. In addition to scanning particular pages to use in meetings with colleagues, students and parents, Steve is considering some of the latest handwriting and smart pen options. He is excited to have found devices that will store his handwritten notes and send them directly to his computer files.
7 Great Resources for Reflective Teachers This short article offers ideas for ways to journal – from moleskin to the latest note taking technology.