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[Weekly Inspiration] This 8th Grade Teacher Brought Her Old Journals to Get Her Students Comfortable Writing

[Weekly Inspiration] This 8th Grade Teacher Brought Her Old Journals to Get Her Students Comfortable Writing

Like many of us, Ariel Sacks has a vivid memory of an experience with a teacher in her youth that has informed how she treats her students.

“It happened when I was in study hall as a 6th grader in the early 90s. We were supposed to be silently doing homework, but on this day, there wasn’t much assigned. We tried chatting, but our teacher, Mr. G, insisted on quiet. Some of us started writing notes to friends.” But Mr. G wasn’t having any of that. He found a note, took it from a student, and began to read it aloud, only stopping when he realized that the note detailed the romance between two students.

This teacher’s refusal to let students in study hall write notes to each other motivated Ariel to start writing on her own. She took out some paper and wrote to nobody, filling up several pages over the rest of the period. And she continued doing it for years after, journaling almost daily.

Ms. Sacks began a daybook program in her 8th grade English class, and she brought out her old journals to show her students. They were mystified by the sheer volume of paper she could fill. She used these old tomes to help her students understand that they didn’t have to write in any particular way in their daybooks. This was about their freedom.

Ms. Sacks only grades daybooks for completion. She never reads them unless invited to. Students submit them to her with directions on a sticky note like, “Please correct mechanics,” or “Read only this entry.”

The freedom to write how they want and what they want excites and empowers her students. They write at least half a page a day, but some write much more than that. She’s already noticed improvements; many seem more comfortable with writing in general because they have begun doing it in a way that is comfortable.

But the most common thing she hears from her students is that writing in the daybook is relaxing. For Ms. Sacks, that’s more than enough.

Check out the full story on EdWeek.