Monday, March 31, 2008

What for determines what style!

Writing a journal without having an idea what you want to get from it is kinda like taking a forest trek without a map or compass and then wondering why you keep going in circles.

There are as many reasons for writing a journal as their are journal writers. What is important to remember however is that the style that you write, how often and what you do with the journal after you have written in it, will all be determined by the reason you were writing in the first place.

Let me start with:
There is no one right way to write a journal.

Then go on to:
Whatever you write, it will have an impact on you in some way, so it might as well be something useful and positive.

Some of the basic journal types are:
Health journals - including exercise and diet dairies.
Well being journals - psychological, social and emotional well being which raise your EQ. Including Sarah Ban Breathnach's Gratitude journal.
Reflective practice journals - for study, pondering life and spiritual matters and your reading or your work and careers.
Creative journals - for all artists and wanna be artists, writers etc. An example is Julia Cameron's Morning Pages.
Recording journals - to record your life, your decisions, aspirations and dreams. These commonly have lists, and charts and photos as well as scribbling.

What you want to get from it will determine how you write, where you write, how often, on what and what you do with what you have written.

If you have been keeping a journal for awhile now, take stock for a moment and think about your purpose. And are you getting there or have you been a little lost lately?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What do I write?

What a good question - for any diarist. But a really good question for students writing reflective journals.

Can I share a really simple framework that works for most journal writing situations?

  • * What happened?
  • * How did you react to this? Feel about this?
  • * Did it remind you of anything?
  • * What could have happened differently? What information would have been/is useful to you about this?
  • * What are you going to do next? (If anything) Or next time?
  • * Answer the question "So What"?
If you cover these basics you really can't go wrong in a general sense.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So what is reflecting?

Artist: Pat de Groot

As a writer, I often start my own contemplation from a creative perspective. And to begin examining reflection I talked with a couple of painter friends about reflections. The connection between reflection and light is one that hit a chord for me. There is a connection between considering the importance of light in a reflection in nature (or a painting) and the act of reflecting being an act of casting some light on a situation you have experienced.

In talking with these painters I discovered there are other connections to be made. Learning to paint a reflection, paint the impact of light is a basic painting technique learnt by all student painters. When I raise the issue of reflecting with my students, I always link it to being a basic skill they must learn to be able to move on and effectively critically analyse. In a more practical setting in human resources I also always described reflection as a critical skill which practitioners need to practice habitually, to be able to fully develop as a practitioner.

Like the art of learning to paint though, reflection and the casting of light, is not a simple skill to learn. It is not material. It is not simple to describe. It is not solid or shaped.

A lesson from maths reminds us that reflection is a map that transforms an object into its mirror image. It is transformative. It is a mirror image - not a pure image.

In writing, reflection is contemplation with a conscious intent. Observing and interpreting what you observe - and continuing that observation and interpretation on the impact of any event, or even of the reflection itself. Perhaps as endless as light appears to be in masterful painting.

Dear Student: You can see why reflection is not easily taught. Like a student painter though, you can take the tools you have and practice. It is in the practicing that the reflection begins, and moves and grows and takes a life of its own. Remember the last posting - perfection is not part of the journey or the journey's end.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Perfect Reflection?

I'm thinking about my students again ... asking them to reflect on their learning, reflect on their experiences, reflect on their feelings ...

The ability to reflect is such a critical part of the qualification they are completing at the Uni. For one of my units, a reflective assessment has been set for another purpose too - to assist them to do some self-debriefing in what can be endless reading and viewing about the horrors of past historical treatment of marginlised people.

So I am finally biting the bullet. In my own post grad study on tertiary teaching, I have decided to look at the act of reflection. What do we mean when we ask our students to reflect? How does this look as a behaviour and how would it read as an article/journal entry/tutorial.

I thought it only fair to record some of my summary thoughts here as I go.

Defining reflection is obviously the starting point - and while I will be looking at all kinds of philosophical and pedagogical musings on this ... I want to record some early thoughts I have, where I think they might be of some assistance for students ...

My first link to the material world was to think about reflections in mirrors or water ... where a reflection is a copy of another image - and two things immediately came to mind.

In the mirror we see what we choose to concentrate on - the good, the bad, the ugly! Then there are those lovely fun house mirrors which are a great example of how the reflection in a mirror can be distorted for us.

A reflection in nature, say a tree reflected in a lake, or the picture at the beginning of this blog posting, is open for some interpretation too. The reflection is never quite like that of the original picture. While it is close enough to see what it represents, it is never as clear as the original is it?

Dear students: There is a powerful lesson here. Your reflection is just that. A reflection, and not a perfected image of the experiences you are having. Some distortion of the experience and feelings is going to be a part of the experience.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Reflective Journal Writing Resource for Nervous Students

In a previous post I created a link to a useful site for students having to writer reflective journals ... I figure its worth putting it up here again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A journal ends ...

I may have mentioned this before ... but I never write in the last few pages of my journal .. I just start the new one ... I'm sure Jung would have his say on this.

How do you end yours? Do you hand it on? Name it? File it? Go through and rip out pages or embellish? Do you have a standard "ending" or perhaps even writer "The End"?

We all have our little journal ending's habits ... or maybe you choose NOT to make a big deal at the end ...

I came upon the last words in Swiss Family Robinson in which Father finishes the book with ...

“For the last time my united family slumbers beneath my care. Tomorrow
this closing chapter of my journal will pass into the hands of my
eldest son.”

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Benefits for kids ...

A blank journal is a great gift for kids ...

There are so many benefits to creating opportunities for kids to writer freely in a journal. I would strongly suggest a paper copy diary or journal for primary ages kids ... even for older ones. There are enough excuses for them to be using the technology that comes with computers without adding a new one. There are some cute voice activated journals that offer full privacy that I would have loved to have when I was a youngster.

Skills and opportunities include:
  • writing
  • handwriting
  • reflecting
  • debriefing
  • self directing
  • creativity
  • reading
  • contemplation
  • self reliance
  • imagination ...
The list goes on ... ask any primary school teacher ... so consider the real gift behind giving a journal and pen to a little friend ...