Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Teaching Connection - This is number 22

The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at their blog,

               I am so grateful and appreciative to all of the community for your comments to me in these recent two days.  Thank you for your concern, your kindness and the sharing of the parts of your lives that have touched some parts of mine.  
              As I have read and re-read comments, I connected to something in the classroom that I did when I taught that has similarities to my post.  I felt a need to TELL my story, to gather support as well as advice.  When I taught, my students wrote a letter to me three times a week.  These were called letter journals, and were private between each student and me.  Three days a week I sat after school and answered each one.  The purpose was for the student to share how their lives (school and otherwise) were going, what was working, what was not, who was a good friend, who was bugging them, what they wished would happen, what they wanted from me for support, and so on.  Any topic was okay.  


            I hope I encouraged and I know I talked about the need to be honest and forthright in personal reflection and needs.  I believe two things:  First, the letter journals written at the end of the school day was a way for students to release some frustrations and to communicate private thoughts that I could attempt to help with.  I wasn't the problem-solver really, but the sounding board that sometimes just commented, sometimes offered possible responses to a situation if asked, and sometimes just replied casually like a one-on-one conversation.  And second, this was still one more way for students to write their stories.  There was no assessment, just response.  They could have written with no punctuation if they wished and as long as I could understand it, that was okay.  Sometimes students drew little cartoons of a situation to "show" sometime they wanted me to understand.  Sometimes they asked personal questions of a 'want to know' kind.  Often, they created cool signature greetings, or ways of saying goodbye.  
           I believe this helped bind our community closer, and if you can find the time, even once a week, I recommend writing letters back and forth with your students.  Their letter journals were a special link between us and we valued them.  
          How-to:  They were half-sized spirals, and stayed in a special basket in the classroom.  Their names were written on the top of the book pages so they could easily spot them when it was time to write.  

21 comments:

  1. A wonderful idea to steal. You are such a caring and thoughtful teacher.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  2. I love this idea too. Think I will try it with my fourth graders after spring break.
    You and your husband are still in my prayers. Please let me know if I can do anything- I have spring break next week. Aside from jury duty, I'm totally open.

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  3. Linda, you have offered so much support and encouragement to the members of this community, it is only fair that we respond back to you in a time where you need to be lifted through words.
    I hope your students appreciated the special teacher they had and took advantage of the learning and loving you gave to each.

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  4. Writing is a healing method for all of us. I have my English students keep journals and my creative writing students also write in their notebooks daily. I try to as questions that will open them up, but they always have the right to write about whatever is on their mind. I find out a lot about their lives this way...I like this idea of a letter journal...

    Thinking of you often. Take care of yourself.

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  5. What a wonderful safe and creative way to build trust and communication with your students. I wonder if I could use this in math class - right now I read through their notebooks on test days and write notes in them - commenting on improvements I see and suggesting note-taking goals...

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  6. Love the idea of the letter journals. My students write to me about their reading lives, but this is yet another layer to consider.
    Thanks!

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  7. I did this when I was in fifth grade with my reading teacher. My mom gave me my journal back many years later. I looked through it and loved how I would tell my teacher all about my problems and she would tell me her thoughts. My favorite was the one where I complained that my mom wouldn't let me drive to the other side of town (where the pool was) because I'd have to cross the highway. My teacher reminded me my mom loved me and then gave me some ideas on how I could work towards getting her to trust me. Thanks for the memory jog, I'll have to add these into my classroom.

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  8. I did this with my daughter the first year she was at college - I wonder where that journal ended up?
    I have been thinking about starting up a new letter journal to myself - so interesting to stop by and read this post today.

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  9. I am glad you are feeling heard and supported. Now, about the letters with your kids - three times a week with all of your students?!?!? I have a hard time getting through once a week for the whole year so this year tried starting later. (It has helped.) I stand in awe. (OK, I am sitting, actually, but you know what I mean.)

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  10. Again, your words show the power of writing! I am going to share your letter-writing idea with the elementary teachers at my school. (I wonder if I could pull it off with preschoolers?) It is a lovely ritual.

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  11. What a wonderful way to get to know your students! Allowing them to share, knowing that you are non-judgmental and care about what it going on with them.

    You and your husband are in my prayers and I'm glad that this community of writers can be here for you. Blessings and Hugs.

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  12. Linda,
    Big Hugs! I really like the idea of letter journals.
    I'm glad you are feeling the love and concern. You have touched so many of us and mentored us in many ways.
    I hope you know that we want to support you in any way we can. I hope that knowing this helps brighten your day!

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  13. What a special way to connect to your students! I do something similar with my ELL's in the summer; it's a "dialogue calendar" where they write me a short note every day (they are pre-functional/beginners) and then I respond. It's a fun peek into their lives and it brings up some "personally important" vocab for them too! :-) I'm glad you are having such a positive experience by sharing this tough time in your life with the community!

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  14. I did this when I taught second grade, but the practice kind of fell by the wayside when I got to 6th. grade...your post makes me think that it's time to start this again. Still thinking about you, Linda...sending good wishes your way.

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  15. Letter writing is a great key. Too bad I can't steal this idea for my own classes but I do have teachers who would love this :)
    Bonnie

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  16. I did this with my daughter during high school. We tucked letters under each others pillows.
    thinking of you, take care.

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  17. My ability to find time for these journals, I used to call them "dialogue journals" has ebbed and flowed over the years. You remind me of the importance of making time.

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  18. I used to write lettersin their journals to my students when I taught elementary. Now, I have many more students, and I can hardly keep up with the paperload. I have a writing memoir group in my CCA class now, and although we're not writing letters, the stories they are writing helps me really get to know them.

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  19. This may have been the only time some of your students ever wrote like this. I'm sure they remember how special it was. Take care.

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  20. I think it's time to bring out the journals in my 5th grade group. They each try to command my attention during our time together. Thank you for a great idea!

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  21. What a beautiful way to connect with your students. Thinking of you and wish you to be kind to yourself today. In my small experience with a sibling, the role of a caretaker is not an easy one. It is much like teaching in that sometimes, the best thing we can do is spend a little time on us so we can give more to others again later.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!