Thoughts and ideas to get you started on your own reflective journal.

This page is aimed at helping you start your own reflective journal. I purposely don't use the more common phrase of 'teaching journal' as I strongly believe that this restricts the scope of the journal, which should go way beyond our teaching.

"The task of articulating what kinds of places our classrooms are (and what kinds of teachers we are) may help to force our awareness of how we see our classrooms and perhaps where our blindspots are. This awareness may be thrown into sharper relief by being reflected off another person (in this case myself through the journals)."
Inside Teaching. Bowen & Marks. Heinemann. 1997

Journals help you reflect on your teaching throughout the year, and when I kept my own it helped me stand back from myself and look at my teaching more objectively, especially as I was sharing them with the Diploma group I was tutoring at the time and knew that they would be sharing these reflections with me and commenting on them. Here are a few ideas to get you kick started on your first entry:
- Use questions which you have always wanted to address, but never got round to. These could be anything from
"Now what is TPR?" to
"I normally deal with reading texts like this…… , and I recently tried ……. . But I'd really like to look into a variety of different ways to truly exploit the text."
- Give a brief resume of your teaching career with particular emphasis on the types of classes and students you were teaching.
- What are your favourite classroom activities?
- How do you plan to approach your journal and what are you hoping to get out of it?
- How would you describe your theory of language learning?
- How would you describe your theory of the English language?

Here are some other ideas of how other teachers have made a start on their journals:
- Jot down in a few sentences or phrases how you would describe your teaching to someone who wanted to get a feeling of what it's like to be in your classroom. Use these notes to identify things you are happy with, things you would like to change or improve, or things which simply interest you about your own teaching and which you would like to investigate and get to know better.
- Ask your learners to report on what it is like to be taught by you - perhaps in the form of a writing exercise - and use these to give an objective view of your teaching.
- Decide whether each of the following statements applies to you wholly (1), partly (2) or not at all (0):
I always correct learner errors.
I talk as little as possible in lessons, so that the learners can talk more.
I always ask my learners to speak in full sentences.
It's a waste of time doing lengthy writing exercises in class.
I gave up drilling years ago.
I use authentic materials as much as possible.
I don't explain meaning. I illustrate it.

How do the answers you have given to these reflect on yourself as a teacher?
- How would you answer the following questions?
Am I satisfied with the way that I am teaching at the moment?
If not, what aspects of my teaching cause this dissatisfaction?
Am I happy with the materials I use with my students?
If not, why not?
Are my students happy with what I do and the way I teach?
If not, what are the possible reasons for their dissatisfaction?
Which of the above problems can I affect directly myself?
Which of the above problems could this journal help me with?

- Think about these seven aspects of teaching EFL in relation to the adjectives below.

good enough

Now add four of your own adjectives.
Focus on those two areas where you noted the most negative and most positive adjectives. Use your journal to record what happens in those classes you teach on the two areas. Write about the materials, the activities, the students' reactions and the difference in your approach to the two areas.
What ideas can you draw from the positive area and move into the negative one?
Or, has your focus on the subject changed your perception of how you teach these areas?
Would you still list the same adjectives?

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