As Mother Nature continues to dump copious amounts of snow on us up here in Boston, I am sitting by the fire taking part in one of my favorite weekend rituals: Reading Reflection Journals!
What is a Reflection Journal? Well, it may be the single most useful tool I use in my classroom!
On the first day of school, I show students a stack of journals. What you say next is critical to making the whole thing work! Here’s my usual spiel:
“When there are over twenty children in a classroom, it can be hard for you to feel like you get to have my attention as often as you would like to. Sometimes, you want to tell me something, but I am busy working with a small group. Sometimes, you want to ask me a question, but you don’t want to ask it in front of the whole class. Sometimes, what you need to tell me feels to hard to say out loud, so you keep it to yourself. Well, these journals are a great way to have some one-on-one time with me. I will write back to you EVERY week. I like to think of these journals as our own private conversation.
You can write to me about ANYTHING you want. Tell me anything that you think I should know. Tell me about what excites you. Tell me about what bothers you. Tell me about what is hard for you. Tell me about what you are proud of. Tell me about what you do after school and on the weekends. Tell me about a problem you’re having. Tell me about your friendships. Ask me questions. Let me get to know you, and if you want, get to know me.
These are private conversations. I will not show these to your grown-ups. They are not for anyone’s eyes but yours and mine. These journals are a safe place. Nothing you write will hurt my feelings. I want you to be honest and I want you to feel comfortable telling me anything. I love you, and nothing you write will change that.”
- How was your soccer game against the Eagles?
- Did you do anything special for your mom’s birthday? Did she love your present?
- What was your favorite part of the movie? Was it similar to the book?
- Did your goggles fall off during the swim meet this time?
- What did you do with your cousins when they came to visit?
Often, students will ask for advice about how to navigate social conflicts. They may be looking for the best way to apologize to a friend, how to not feel threatened by a new friend in their social circle, or struggling with feeling different. Their reflection journals are a safe place to ask for this kind of help, and feel like someone is really listening to them.
And sometimes, they just want to love you and see if they can make you smile.