JournalTalk Q&A Journal Writing Coach

Q&A: “Is Journaling in Schools a Good Thing?

JournalTalk Q&A Journal Writing CoachIt seems like every subject in school is requiring students to keep a “journal” for enhanced learning. My first reaction to this awareness was happy. But I wonder whether students can be truly honest, while they are also hoping their teachers will award them a good grade? Doesn’t this violate some of the defining characteristics of good journaling?

Kim Ades, from Frame of Mind Coaching in Toronto, Canada, joins me to answer this and other interesting related questions. You can learn more about Frame of Mind Coaching by taking this assessment. Receive a free consultation from a Frame of Mind coach. Please let them know that you heard about them on JournalTalk!

Your turn to answer: Do you keep a journal as a school assignment? Do you feel it helps you personally, or is it just another assignment? Teachers, how do you see journaling helping your students? Post your responses at the bottom of this webpage, in the comments section.

You may email your own journaling question to be featured on a future episode of JournalTalk. Or, pick up the telephone and leave a voicemail with your question at 1-805-751-6280 (only normal toll charges may apply). When your question is featured, we will send you a thank-you gift for sharing your voice! (JournalTalk Q&A, Episode #28, June 9, 2015)

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Voiceover: Thomas Gerrard

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9 thoughts on “Q&A: “Is Journaling in Schools a Good Thing?

  1. Luanne

    If it hadn’t been for insightful junior high school English teachers, I never would have learned the value of keeping a journal or survived my junior high/high school years.

    I was painfully shy and had no one to talk to about the things that were happening in my life or about my feelings. Even if I had someone to talk to, I couldn’t have identified my feelings. I turned in a censored journal that met their expectations, but I kept another one that gave me a place to vent and express the things that couldn’t be said out loud. That was 40 years ago, and I still keep a journal, it still helps me to sort out my feelings, and still offers the security of having a place to express my deepest thoughts until I’m ready to share them with another.

    Thankfully, neither I nor my junior high school-aged daughter have to deal with the painful things that I did as a child, but I see her keeping a journal to help her sort out her own feelings. I suggested it to her for years, but she refused. A teacher assigned it, and she happened onto the value of journaling the same way I did. I suspect that she keeps two – one to turn in for assignments, then the real one.

    1. Nathan Ohren Post author

      Luanne, thank you for your comment, and for this great example and story. I love your solution of turning in a “censored” version of your journal, and I think that’s probably what I would have done, if journal-writing were assigned to me when I was in school. I’m also delighted to hear that people (children especially) are TURNED ONTO journaling because of teachers who encourage it in classwork.

  2. Gia

    I wrote my Master’s thesis on “Student Resistance to Journal Writing,” focusing on the use of journals in college freshman composition courses. Unless the journal is very well integrated into the lessons of the course, students tend to view it as a waste of their time. Allowing “open” or “free” entries, even if you specify that they will just be counted and not read, opens up more proverbial cans of worms than such make-work assignments are worth. Just consider the example of a student who writes about harming self or others in the journal. Privacy issues conflict with safety concerns, and university policies are often at odds on these dilemmas.

    Fast-forward a quarter century, and now we have the compulsory bi-weekly blog post. Again, make-work homework unless actually used in class.

    The assigned journal is definitely a different duck that that kept voluntarily. Colleges and universities would do well to offer a journaling course as an elective for those students who are truly interested in journal writing.

    1. Nathan Ohren Post author

      Thank you Gia. Some really great points made here. Would you be willing to come on the program and share about these nuances within your Master’s thesis? I’d love to delve deeper into this subject, and there are certainly some interesting issues to explore here. I agree with your statement that the assigned journal is a “different duck” than a voluntary one, and I love your statement about universities offering a journal-writing elective!

  3. Jenny Gawthrop

    I was a member of an ” experimental” class of high schoolers who were required to turn in a goal related “journal” for home room for two years. I tried to turn in a journal like the one I had kept personally for years; I thought I would save time by just turning in what I was writing everyday anyway. I already had an English class “journal” that was supposed to help me figure out my mental processes when researching a topic for our midterm paper.

    Then our social studies teacher had the great idea of having us keep a social awareness journal that we had to turn in twice a week with one hundred word entries typed for each day. In this one year of High School I had three different “journals” I was supposed to be keeping everyday. I was really upset when my home room teacher reviewed my “personal” journal entries for the first week and gave my notebook back to me and wrote in RED PEN “This seems a little unfocused, go back and review your stated goals for this semester.” I NEVER turned in my private journal again. I missed more than one home room journal turn in though, just because I hated the duplicity of the thing. The other journals had a stated purpose that I could write to; the home room one was supposed to be a “private place, free of judgement, to express my thoughts and feelings about my experiences” and my home room teacher had marked it up in censorship. At the end of the year as I was leaving this teachers class she remarked on how she was surprised by my resistance to the project, after all she saw me “scribbling away” all the time. I smiled and thanked her for the real life lessons on having a public and a private self. She was shocked and recommended I get counseling. Not surprisingly this was my least liked teacher in my High School career. I learned to hate projects that required a journal as part of the assignment. The schools definition of journal was never the same as mine.

    Then Columbine happened and anything that made you appear anti-social landed you in the school office for interrogation for that last week of school. I was relieved to go to college where I could just do my homework without all the personal interference in the guise of helping me “develop.”

    While I value journal writing in my private life, I’ve been a subject of what I would call overuse of the idea of journaling. I can honestly say if I had not been journaling since 4th grade I doubt I would have continued after the three journal year of High School. While I think writing a journal is a useful tool to teach people I would hope that today teachers practice the left hand knowing what the right hand is up to. The best analogy I can think of is like with homework ten problems teaches a strategy and provides practice, one hundred problems every night after school, for every class causes frustration and boredom. But I’m not an educator, I just remember being a student and the frustration that many times came with it.

    1. Nathan Ohren Post author

      Wow, Jenny, thanks for this. You’ve provided a lot to chew on here. And gives us a great measuring stick for how teachers should/shouldn’t use journaling in the classroom!

      1. Jenny Gawthrop

        I will admit a lot of my feelings can be tied to the fact that I feel very passionate about my journal and i have put a lot of work into “turning off” my personal critc when I write. To be fair I don’t think my teacher was as knowledgeable about journal writing as I was at the time either. I had decided keeping a journal was my hobby and I was reading everything I could get on doing it at that time, and still am. One correction I would make is the home room teacher was actually from Junior high and I only went to that school for one year. The year of three school related journals did happen in high school though.

        1. Nathan Ohren Post author

          Congratulations! That ability for “turning off the inner critic” sometimes takes years to cultivate. This is precisely the reason that journal-writing in the classroom can possibly be dangerous as well as helpful. It really depends on how it is assigned and used by the teacher.

  4. Brian N

    When I worked with journals for students it was my policy to ask them to flip the journal in front of me each day as I walked by their desks so I could asses how much they were writing.
    This prevented me from actually reading their journal.
    Later if they wanted me to read something they would photo copy the material for me.
    Eventually, once I had earned their trust they would use a highlighter to bracket the area they wanted me to read knowing I would never read anything else.
    This process was slow but it worked extremely well.
    The effectiveness of the journal is in the focusing of thoughts while being able to see progression and trends for the author by revisiting what they have written on a regular basis. This allows them to re-write the ending and make changes in their behavior.
    The effectiveness for the instructor is to get the students to journal openly honestly, to read and asses their progress.
    This worked for me for more than 20 years. Brain


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