I still find evidence of my past when cleaning out a desk drawer, when flipping through a book from a previous class, when rediscovering a journal. I relish opening the pages, reading and remembering who I was and what I thought through these little written time capsules. From which name I used to mark the book to how I annotated, I find reminders that allow me to piece together a timeline of my growth as a reader, writer, and teacher. Sometimes I feel like my personal history is laid out in the handwriting alone.
As a new teacher, I required my students to journal about what we were reading, how it connected to their lives and why. Journals seemed the best place to tuck away informal student writing. On Fridays after school, I lugged a crate full of student journals home. I was vigilant in protecting their journals and leaving no mark of my own on their pages. Over the years, and with the addition of one-to-one technology, we stopped journaling and started filing everything away in Google Classroom. The writing has changed, too, becoming more argumentative and less personal reflection. Though I have grown in many ways as a teacher compared to those beginning years, one thing I missed the mark on was moving away from journaling.
Through the Pages Program, all students are gifted a journal, the perfect journal of just the right size to tuck into a bag or carry in a hoodie pocket. As I watch my students grow excited over receiving their journals, I realize how much rarer it is for them to have a place to express themselves freely, to recordТ random ideas in their own handwriting, to capture little moments and ramblings from their everyday lives through sketching and jotting down quick notes. My students love their journals and customize them to express who they are at this specific moment—teenagers looking forward to so many decisions and possibilities throughout the next year and a half that they sometimes forget to pause in the moment. They forge on with what is due tomorrow—day after day, quarter after quarter—until summer break. A journal encourages them to take time for themselves to express their creativity and capture snapshots of themselves without a grade attached. Journals live beyond final bells and holiday breaks. My hope is that one day, when all of their decisions are made and final transcripts sealed that their journals will reveal some forgotten memories about them before they moved away, went to college, bought their first homes, popped the question.
Sometimes we get so caught up in what we need to do that we lose track of what we should do. This is true for students and teachers alike. I no longer carry journals home on the weekends; actually, I don’t look at them at all unless a student asks me to read something. I will continue to gift students these safe places to be themselves in writing. Journaling matters even more now than those earlier years in my career, upholding the necessity and benefits of documenting a personal and individual handwritten factor in this one-to-one technology world. No one will ever accidentally happen upon Google Classroom and have his past open before him. But, our Pages journals can do just that.