Monday, June 24, 2013

Journaling My School Year (Looking Back & Looking Ahead)

Many of my friends know that I love to journal, I love art and I find it very reflective and calming. I also love art and usually find inspiration in the tiniest things. I also love to scrapbook but in its simplest form. I care more about the writing and the process of writing things down than on the cute little things that go on the page. Don't get me wrong...I love details BUT when it comes down to journaling, I focus on the content, on my words.

Last school year (2012-2013) was our first year implementing and using the Common Core Standards in grades K-3 and since I teach all the English Language learners in my school building, I knew I had an overwhelming task ahead learning the new standards, implementing them and learning as much as I could along the way. Overwhelming is an understatement but one thing helped me along the way: carving the time to write things down.

I wanted this learning place to be a visually appealing place for me to write. A place where I would WANT to write. It sounds silly but sometimes you got to do what works for you, right? So, one of the things I did ahead of time was collect the small cards/journaling pieces. I had a date stamp, a glue stick and a good pen with the journal at all times so there was no excuse for not doing it. This is not a "promote Smash Books" blog post but I do love their journals for how flexible and convenient they are.  One of the first things I did on the journal was work on the cover. I added one of my favorite quotes on teaching by Penny Kittle. It reminds me of what this profession/calling is all about.

"I believe you’ve got to do what’s right, every single day of your life, even if the rest of the crowd isn’t. Teaching is about honor and goodness and mercy. It really is. And no one will be watching you most of the time. You either live up to the calling of this profession or you don’t, and most likely no one will ever know but you. But it matters because the kids are counting on you.” 

                           from The Greatest Catch: a life in teaching, Penny Kittle, 2005 

Then the process of documenting my learning began! I know that I could've done this "documenting process" on my blog but the fact that I had this journal with me all the time, allowed me to write on the spot when I was ready or with my students' during Writing Workshop (if that worked at the time).
Another thing to consider is the fact that I LOVE to take pictures. For me a picture is worth more than a thousand words. I have my iPhone and/or my camera with me all the time. I probably take pictures of my students every day. I'm such a process kind of person that as long as I take a picture, I'd remember what happened.

 The small journaling cards made it less easier and less intimidating to  journal on the spot. There were times I wanted to do a quick write and the cards worked great. Other times, I had more to say and I've just used all the space on the page. Regarding the photos, I set alarms for myself to remember to back up my pictures and upload them on Snapfish at the end of each month. This allowed me to have those pictures at my fingertip. It's a system that worked for me because otherwise I'd totally forget to upload them. :)

Some of the pictures were of the students involved in an activity/strategy. Other times, I took pictures of their work or of the charts we've created together. I can't emphasized enough how helpful this was for me, especially because there were several new things I got to teach this year that I've not taught before. I knew that I was going to make plenty of mistakes along the way. Some things were going to work and other things were just going to be pitched. There were going to be celebrations and frustrations all along the way. I expected that. I embraced that. I knew I wasn't alone in this journey since so many teachers across the country are exploring the new Common Core State Standards and what it meant for them and their daily teaching lives.

Some of the new units/concepts/big ideas I got to teach this year was going more "in-depth" with informational writing with young/emergent ELL writers. I absolutely loved the outcome but I won't deny was hard work....for all of us. I put myself as a writer in that process as much as I could. I wanted to try out writing a "closing statement" with them as much as I could.
Another new piece for our learning was writing Opinion Writing with 1st and 2nd graders. What a journey that was! Oh boy! At the beginning I wasn't too sure that these writers were ready for it. I wasn't sure if that was developmentally appropriate. I was wrong. They GOT it. And all these lessons are worth documenting so when I'm in that process again this year I'll remind myself that they CAN do this. They GOT this. I know....each writer is different. each year is different. each process is different. But throughout the school year it's so easy to get overwhelmed or cranky or negative about things when we got so much on our plate. I'm keeping it real. Maintaining a positive attitude about things is not easy at times but I know myself as a learner, as a person and as a teacher. I know what works for me....and having a place to look back on our previous journey helps keeps myself align.

This upcoming school year I have new adventures to face: a new school district, a new position, new students, new much of my journey involves the word NEW. Now more than ever, I need to document this process. I haven't been in this position in 10 years. I've forgotten what it means to learn things from zero, to be new at everything, to look at a form with foreign eyes. But I DO believe that this is what keeps the spirit young and renewed. Summer is the perfect time to prepare that new journal, to think about the process and find a system that works for you. I know that this is true for me...and that is exactly what I'm working on.

Enjoy the journey. Carpe Diem.