Posted May 30, 2012on:
by Urban Muser
The type of homework that my son enjoys the most (or maybe hates the least) is being told to write in his exercise book journal. This is also the type of homework that I like reviewing the most.
Why does my son not mind journalling? Even though he has to write about a topic typically of the teacher’s choosing, he can operate more freely in that writing space.
Why do I like the idea of journalling? I think that it is one of the more powerful and relevant language development tools in a teacher’s arsenal. It can bring together all the component knowledge and skills in reading and writing.
But that is where I stop liking journals as practiced in schools. I would like journals more if they became more relevant.
There is journalling for school and journalling for real life. Both adults and kids can tell the difference.
There would not be a difference if journalling for school mirrored real life by adopting what already happens in real life, e.g., tweeting, blogging, tumblr-ing, Facebook-ing. The big difference is not in the platform but in the agency.
I would also like to see more importance placed in journals. They come across as afterthoughts as journal writing only happens once in a blue moon. That blue moon rises only when the teacher says so. That is not how it should be.
You should be able to write, draw, paint, perform, or record when you need to, not just when you are told to. Being told to journal develops dependence (when to write, what to write, how long to write); being free to journal can develop discipline and ownership.
School-type journals are also written for a small audience. Often, that audience comprises of only one member (the teacher) if the parents do not read the journal.
Journals, like diaries, can be private. But journalling in public simultaneously provides an outlet for creativity and a measure of critical thinking. It is like the way some people dress when they are at home versus being out in public.
The canteen food blog of Veg, aka Martha Payne, is a perfect example of how passion can drive learning and change.
Only 9-years-old, Veg decided to photograph her school meals and critique their health, taste, and appearance value. She not only gained an authentic audience of her peers around the world, she also brought about change when the powers-that-be felt the heat.
The school now has healthier meals (more vegetables and less hair). Kids in other countries have also taken to sharing their photos, food ratings, and stories.
I hope Martha continues on her journal journey, and in doing so, keep learning how to write, bring about change, grow in her awareness of other cultures, and more.
I also hope that proponents of traditional school journals try keep up with the times. Journal writing can be a way to infuse values into content as kids learn to write for a more critical audience, deal with different perspectives, and develop the discipline to reflect.