Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Importance of Journals


A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a parent who remembered me as her tour guide on her eighth grade trip! She was accompanying her son, who was part of his school's trip!

After the initial shock that I had been in the business long enough, and old enough, for such an encounter, I asked her what she remembered from the trip.

"Oh, I remember you! I have a photo of you with the boys; on July 4th, you dressed up as the Statue of Liberty! You said they were shower curtains and you were sweating! It's here, in my journal!"

She had kept the looseleaf journal of the trip since 1986 and had brought it on her son's Washington, DC trip!

Her journal was the requirement of one of my most beloved teachers from Corona, CA, who tragically, died last year. (The above photo was sent to me by my teacher's husband.)

But this journal was a very thoughtful one that covered not just the background history and events of the trip, but her feelings concerning each stop, her budgeting, her purchases, the new foods she tried, the weather, news reports on TV, and headlines in the newspapers, revelations about her friends (one snored loudly and kicked while she slept), and the interaction amongst her roommates and classmates.

Each evening on the way to the hotel, I had her read something from the journal that applied to what we had done. We had discussions about the social interaction amongst the roommates on her trip as well as the one we were on.

I was impressed by the engaging way it was presented, the perspective of the trip from an eighth grader, and the life lessons learned.

There's a real difference between a group that has a journal and one that hasn't. As a rule, the ones with journals are far more appreciative of the trip and more focused during it. I don't have the discipline problems with a journal group as opposed to the non-journalers.

It's also nice that they can reference what they are about to experience in advance so that there aren't blank faces staring at the guide, docent, or ranger; journal groups get more respect and content from these providers.

Journals also give some busy work on the bus during long drives as well as help to get the students settled in their rooms in the hotel. There is less likely to be horseplay in the room if they have a paragraph or two to write, or need to get their budgets in order.

Journals come in all sizes and shapes; the presentation of information and the required work all varies according to the respective teachers.

Some journals were put together during the school year by the students themselves and contain reports on the sites and aspects of history. Others are put together by the teachers. Some are strictly academic, others have crossword puzzles and games attached. Many of my faith-based groups include scripture and prayers for each site.

I have just received the journal for Rosemont. Mrs. C-C has compiled a wonderful one that also includes a 'Getting to Know You Bingo', since several classes are combined. There is background information which can be reviewed five minutes before we reach the site and questions.

And there are pages for their thoughts.

I reinforce the importance of journals and even talk of some of the great diaries and journals. students today understand this concept more than they did ten years ago before MySpace, Xanga, and blogs existed.

But it is bittersweet to reflect that the first teacher I encountered that had journals for her students is now gone, although she is remembered in at least one of those journals.

Her name was Nancy Lynde from Corona, Ca. and I miss her.

1 comment:

Sybil said...

Thanks for writing this.