Journal Your Way to Successful Teaching and Personal Growth

The Benefits of Journaling
Many studies have highlighted the health benefits of writing in a journal. It is an excellent and often therapeutic habit to cultivate, regardless of age or vocation. As a teacher, keeping a journal is a great way to process on the go—reflect on the day, the week, the semester, and even the year. Here are a few ideas to help spark your journal writing.

Journaling as an Emotional Release
Bottling up feelings is unhealthy. As a teacher, it’s easy find yourself in situations where you have to contain your emotions and project an even-keel demeanor. While this sort of demeanor might be best in the classroom, suppressing your true feelings without any release eventually will take its toll on your mental well-being. Venting to coworkers, while at times can feel therapeutic, is not necessarily the best move politically.

Taking just a few minutes during your prep time or lunch period to jot down your frustrations in a journal can be a sensational outlet. Expressing these emotions in your own, private, personal journal can also be incredibly informative and rewarding. Most of us can’t make enough time to reflect on our feelings in the moment as much as we’d like, much less look back on feelings we had weeks or even days ago.

Through journaling, you’ll start to gather a history, and you can start to recognize your patterns of behavior when faced with specific people or tasks. A journal is a different sort of mirror into your feelings, too. Sometimes, you can pinpoint stressors that you weren’t aware of before. By doing this, you can anticipate stressful situations and prepare to handle them more effectively going forward.

Journaling to Reflect on Lessons Learned
Journaling can aid your professional growth by helping you document your own lessons learned. As you try new lesson plans and new activities in your classroom, some of these new plans might go very well, while some might fall a bit short of your expectations. In both cases, a few brief journal notes on the spot serve as great reminders for later. Sometimes just a few tweaks to a lesson plan can turn it from an “okay” plan into a highly successful plan. Most of the time, you realize what’s needed to fix the plan right away, often as the activity evolves. If you have your journal nearby, you can take a few quick notes right in the moment. Once you have more time, you can build on these quick notes to reframe your plan. When you revisit your plan next weekend, next summer, or next year, you will have your thoughts and adjustments conveniently documented.

Remember to also jot down questions in your journal. That way, your questions are in one place for later reflection. A week or two after you record your questions you could easily find yourself with a group of teachers discussing the very topic that troubled you a few weeks back. Having your questions on hand could serve as a handy refresher and help you quickly and more articulately seek their advice.

Journaling to Document the Good
While your own personal journal can be a wonderful private outlet for things that are frustrating or otherwise upsetting you, make sure you paint a complete picture by writing about the good. If you only reach for your journal when things are bothering you, you’ll potentially forget that a lot of good things happened. Writing about your successes and revisiting those successes can boost your confidence and help remind you why you chose this profession.

One Journal Is Good, A Few Are Better
Keep a set of journals to partition your writings between private records and more public ones. Keep an “official” journal. One that has a saying about why you teach on the cover. Treat this journal as your public journal. Carry it to meetings and use it for conference notes, etc. Use this public journal to document classroom planning ideas, accomplishments, and lesson work.

By keeping a more formal, professional journal, you’ll feel comfortable sharing what’s in your journal with your coworkers and principals. Just think of how impressive you’ll look when, in your evaluation meetings, you pull out your professional journal to discuss specific lessons and successes.

You’ll also want to keep a private journal in your set. Use your private journal to work out your ideas, vent a little, and capture your “glimmers.” The thoughts in your private journal are just for you. Keep this journal tucked away in your tote or in your nightstand at home.

Choose the Right Journal
Make sure the journal you choose sends the right message—especially your public journal. Your journal needs to represent you. If you are going to bring your journal with you into evaluation meetings, be sure the message on the cover marries nicely with the content on the inside. Be strategic in your journal choice. Choose a journal in your school colors. Or check out the great teacher notebook journals at Choose from a wide variety of notebook journals—square-shaped, grid pages, notebook-sized, pocket-sized. Teacher Peach even has notebook journals, like the two shown below, that work both horizontally and vertically to capture all of your different ideas.

Teacher Peach Alphabet Notebook Journal Teacher Peach's Each and All Notebook/Journal

How to Start Journaling
In general, most people feel the most comfortable writing when given specific topics. Having a journal, and with it the freedom to just write, can feel foreign and even daunting to some. Like anything else, journal writing takes patience and practice. Many of you teach early readers to build stamina as they read for longer and longer periods of time. Try the same method with your journaling.

Set aside 5 minutes a day to freewrite—putting your pen to paper and writing whatever comes to mind. Just write. Don’t stop or worry about spelling or grammar. Once this timeframe feels comfortable, just like with exercise, take it further. Challenge yourself to do it longer. As you probably tell your students, soon they will not only “be able” to read for 20 minutes, they will want to read for 20 minutes. Maybe you will get a similar effect from journaling!

If you prefer to write on a topic, see if any of these ideas provide a spark. Try our suggestions for journal topics as you begin your journey to journaling!

  • Your strengths and weaknesses—as a person and as a professional
  • Highlights and successes of the day/week/month/year
  • Changes you would make to your teaching
  • Ways to involve other classrooms or grade levels
  • Integrating different content areas for a more balanced unit plan
  • Ways to incorporate literacy or character education in all subjects
  • Ideas for celebrating school events and holidays

How else do you use your journal? What journal styles would you’d like us to create? Let us know what they are. Post your suggestions here.

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