For the first couple of months of my teaching contract I have been keeping a journal. I have always strongly believed that reflecting on mistakes and experiences is the best way to learn. I feel like I am a reflective person however I have never been one to sit down and write out my thoughts into a journal or diary. Creating a journal presented a unique opportunity for me to further engage in the reflective process. Sharing my journal has challenged me to think about challenges and experiences to a depth that I do not think I would have done otherwise. I believe that keeping this journal for my first year of teaching has enhanced my experience in the following ways:
1. Increased depth of reflection.
Being asked to share my journal and my reflections has challenged me to go deeper and resulted in a higher quality of reflection. I believe very strongly that sharing my work created a level of accountability that I would have struggled to have otherwise. Knowing someone is going to read your reflection challenges you to create something that reflects the passion you have for the profession.
2. Enhanced/increased number of learning experiences with other professionals.
A lot of my journal was focused on various initiatives within the division and education in general. Focusing on the experience of other professionals challenged me to begin conversations that drew out there opinions around a particular idea or practice. One of my favorite things to do is to share my philosophy and ideas with other educators. Having this journal helped to focus my conversations into something that I could potentially journal and share later. I was able to learn more about different initiatives and different teachers’ successes and failures because this journal challenged me to ask questions that probed deeper into these issues.
3. Increased frequency of reflection.
Ideally teachers reflect on the successes and/or failures of every lesson that they teach however there are times when commitments outside of school or a need for balance takes away from this experience. Keeping a journal challenged me to continually reflect on all aspects of every lesson even though I did not journal or share on every aspect. I would reflect on each lesson I did trying to draw out particular ideas that I could reflect on further in my journal.
4. Encouraged to try (or transition to) new things quicker.
As I was continually reflecting on my lessons, experiences, interactions, etc. I was more aware of any successes or failures that I had. This heightened awareness allowed me to quickly identify things that worked well or not so well with certain classes. I was able to switch quickly to something new if I needed to because I was very conscious of how successful my current method was.
5. Greater confidence in what I was doing and why I was doing it.
Being able to share ideas and receive feedback on them was such a confidence builder as a first year teacher. Sharing my journal presented a great opportunity to receive affirmation about the practices and lessons I was attempting from people who were knowledgeable and appreciative of these methods. Having a system of support and affirmation is an important thing for new teachers and without my journal it would have been harder to find.
Everyone’s situation is unique and what may have worked for me may not work as well for somebody else. Differences aside, reflective practice is at the core of what it means to be a teacher. A teacher committed to the profession is a teacher committed to developing their skills and practices. Keeping a journal is one of the simplest (yet probably the most effective) way to continually engage in a process of life long professional development.
As you read this journal I hope that it offers a unique perspective from a first year teacher. I would recommend a process similar to this for any first year teacher. Keeping a journal and constantly reflecting on experience can be annoying and time consuming however in the field it can be one of the only forms of accountability you have. Engaging in authentic reflective practice will help you learn faster, be more effective, and experience more success more often in your first year on the job.
Here is my journal (it has gotten quite long):