Teen Journaling Can Build Teacher-Student Connection

August 30, 2011

Teen Journaling Can Build Teacher-Student Connection

Ever ask a middle or high school teacher if he/she has had their students journal for a week, a month or longer? You are likely to hear how it improved student-teacher connection, classroom rapport, and a teacher’s appreciation of his/her students.
[caption id="attachment_253" align="alignleft" width="246" caption="Journaling clarifies a teen's thoughts and feelings"][/caption] Teens Need To Vent Thoughts and Feelings The teenage years are fraught with intense vulnerability, sensitivity and emotional torment. Some teen angst is simply a normal part of adolescent growth – hormones plus enough brain development to question and be anxious but not enough to grasp life’s complexities and see possible outcomes. Some teen angst is a direct result of serious life/family trauma and drama. Regardless, teens are eager to vent their feelings and welcome safe and supportive opportunities to do so, even if they don’t know that’s what a teacher is providing them. I am reminded of the many youth from twelve to twenty who have felt compelled to share their life story with me in emails, journals and poetry as they hoped to clear the goblins from their minds with someone who might not consider them wrong or strange for having their intense feelings. Writing helps teens understand their thoughts and feelings, reduces their sense of isolation, and gives them hope. Expect Dark, Startling, Deeply Touching, Profound Writing Teen writing can be very dark if their childhood has included significant pain and loss. It is often full of anger and rage, maybe self-pity, maybe determination, sometimes profound awareness. As one young adult writer shared with me, “I had to write about my life to understand it.” By writing since early adolescence, she sorted out her intense feelings; it renewed her hope. “I’m not crazy. Things are not all my fault. And maybe I do need to tell someone how I feel,” she concluded. As a result, today she is a playwright and a traveling speaker  on college campuses. Journaling can be Incorporated into Any Class [caption id="attachment_252" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Teacher-to-student connection made stronger by journaling"][/caption] Journaling can be a part of many classes, asking teens to reflect on their own lives and tie it to a greater appreciation of the class subject – from English to Social Studies, Life Skills to even math (ie. Ask students to observe how numbers play a part in their lives and equations in their lives – if I do this, my friends do that – a + b =c!) Creating opportunities in class for teens to journal in poetry and prose helps teens identify the cause and relationships in their lives. Isn’t that the critical thinking needed in every subject matter? It can help them see underlying motives and issues. They can legitimize their right to how they feel about situations, people and relationships AND feel cared about and more understood by a teacher. Student Journaling Helps Teachers, Too It also helps teachers identify the legitimate challenges in particular students’ lives. A teacher can then help a student reach out to needed resources, perhaps initiate a conversation with a counselor or parents.
“When there is no one else to talk to about what’s going on, I write a poem,” says a high school girl living in a group home after a series of abusive foster home experiences and incarcerated parents. Writing reduced her sense of abandonment and isolation. From well-adapted high achievers to teens on probation, in shelters and prisons, the written word gives them solace and builds a bridge of trust with the adult they share their writing with.
 Journaling Validates Teens [caption id="attachment_255" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Validation by a teacher builds teen self-esteem."][/caption] Putting our most intimate thoughts down without censorship validates our uniqueness and our right to be. It clarifies our direction, and vents pent up emotion.  Since early caveman, human beings have had the need to express themselves in written form, relating through our common denominator of feelings. For me, just knowing someone else has read my blog ramblings, whether I ever hear from you or not, draws us closer as fellow beings on the journey of understanding and rising to the challenges of life. It connects us. And teens, likewise, hunger for connection.
Because teens have that natural instinct to express themselves and connect through the written word, I encourage teachers to have your students create their own journals, add their personality to it. Encourage parents to get their teens a journal as a gift. A fancy leather-bound journal or simple plain book, with pen, colored felt pens or stickers, a journal gift let’s teens know that their thoughts are valuable and valued. A journal gift says that the parent/teacher thinks that a teen is special and unique, that their thoughts are worthy. In turn, you will be giving them one of the healthy tools for unleashing dreams, exploring passions, and confronting fears.
When a Teen Shares their Journal with a Teacher, You make an Impact When a teen shares details of their lives, thoughts and feelings with a teacher, consider it of great importance to them. A teacher’s acceptance and recognition of their thoughts can have an enormous positive impact on their self-esteem. Applaud their courage to share their truths. Why Should Teens Journal?   [caption id="attachment_254" align="alignright" width="253" caption="Journal when and where you feel comfortable"][/caption]
  • Identify emotions
  • Clarify thoughts
  • Aid in decisions
  • Let go of cares
  • Release fear and anger
  • Increase gratitude by intentionally journaling on gratitude
  • Protect relationships by writing before speaking
  • Create positive reference points by recording good happenings and positive feelings
  • Improve spiritual connection with a personal Higher Power
When Should Teens Journal?
  • First thing in the morning
  • After school
  • Last thing at night
  • Any time they feel strongly – good or bad
Where Should Teens Journal
  • In their bedroom
  • Outdoors
  • In a cushy chair
  • In class if allowed
  • Any quiet place




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