It wasn’t until after I boarded the 747 bound for South Korea in the fall of 2003 that I had ever considered keeping a diary. In fact, to be fair, it wasn’t my idea at all. In the airport moments, before we said our goodbyes, a family friend placed a little-wrapped box into my carryon.
As the plane leveled off on some westward heading I unwrapped the parcel that contained a beautiful leather-bound journal.
Thus began my first experience with ‘journaling’. During the following months on the ground in Korea, I’d keep the little leather book with me, making notes of unusual things (everything was unusual), mindful at the time that a completed journal about life in Korea would have some nostalgic value to my future self, if not to a son or daughter. Never did it occur to me that a journal could serve as a repository of ‘data’ – that journal entries themselves could be analyzed to reveal hidden truths and trends, much like numerical data could lay bare statistical ones.
My first teaching year in Korea yielded three full journals. My second produced one, and as subsequent years passed, my commitment to journaling continued to ebb. I suppose the growing infrequency of my entries had to do with my feeling that novelty was also on the decline. By my seventh year I wasn’t writing at all but I had amassed 10,000 hours of classroom teaching experience, a mark considered by some to indicate mastery. I had experienced virtually every possible EFL situation in virtually every part of Korea. I don’t mean to suggest that I was becoming complacent; just the opposite. By the fall of 2010 I had joined the faculty of a prestigious university, and was making progress professionally, academically, and personally. I had just always believed that a diary was a place to capture newness, not record regularity.
But I was wrong about that. Just because your teaching life takes on a sense of routine does not mean that you have nothing to learn from the uniformity of its arrangement. Your teaching style provides you with a means of coping with many predictable demands of teaching, but there is also a danger that an unchecked configuration of teaching strategies can hinder your professional growth. Indeed, there is perhaps no better time to engage in a focused reflective journaling enterprise than when you are going about the daily business of teaching. When it is critically ascertained, a diary can serve as a tool for understanding assumptions and beliefs, and shed light on the complexities of relationships that exist between materials and methods and how these combine to inform and affect student learning.
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