Should Teachers Require Students to Keep Journals?

    Susan Stuck September 7, 2017
    Should Highschool Students be forced to Keep a Journal.jpgYesterday was the first day of school for my daughters. When I didn't get any frantic phone calls from my daughters or their teachers, I knew all was well and my daughters would be fine. I then went about my day, working and tidying up.  Before I knew it, my girls were home, complete with papers to sign and syllabuses to read, as well as some online questionnaires to fill out.  Each girl was interrupting the other as they excitedly discussed their classes, their assignments, their teachers, and the cutest boys in their classes.

    When I got to the syllabus for my sophomore daughter's English class, I had to sign a "Parent Journal Release." This was part of the English curriculum and each student is required to bring a composition notebook in which to write her journal entries.

    That got me thinking.  Should teachers require students to write in journals?  I remember when I was in high school.  I had to keep a journal in my English classes, too.  But I was okay with it.  I like to write, and by then I was writing in my diary faithfully every night.  Granted, back then it was mostly about the crushes I had or how I envied some of the girls in my glass.

    Other people, however, may not be okay with it. This could be because they feel vulnerable exposing themselves by opening their lives for the teacher to read.  What if they don't want to write what the teacher wants them to write?

    In my daughter's syllabus, it states, "The purpose of this activity will be to explore ideas that are related to the curriculum and to make connections with modern society and the student's personality.  Journaling will prepare the students for the day's concepts, provide practice for writing skills, and prepare students for discussion."

    The syllabus goes on to say that the journals "may not always be graded for content, but rather for completion and participation."  But what if a student doesn't want to participate and share his or her journal entry?  In addition, parents are given the opportunity to request the journals so that they may read them at home.  But what if the student doesn't want his or her parents to read his or her journals?  Does this border on in vasion of privacy?  Also, the syllabus says that the teacher does not "read each journal for content." Why, then, are students required to keep a journal?

    This was a discussion held recently on a Google community I belong to.  Some people don't think parents should read the students' journals.  They believe this would be akin to reading a child's diary, which is private and sacred to that child.  On the other hand, if someone is writing about committing suicide in their journals, then the teacher would be alerted and could take precautionary measures for the child to get the help he or she needs before it's too late. In that case, perhaps the teacher should read for content.  It's a fine line to toe.

    There is another solution, however, if students aren't comfortable talking about their personal life in a journal for school.  They could always keep two journals, one for school in which they complete the required assignment or journal prompt.  Then they could go home and write in more detail that same assignment but putting a personal and emotional touch on it.  This will be beneficial for them as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become while exploring all aspects of their life. In fact, by writing in their journals, they just may gain a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as ways to cope with life's challenges.  Through journaling, teens can learn to write affirmations and begin to work on those affirmations.  Yes, it seems like extra work, but in the long run, it could be very therapeutic for the student to get his or her words on paper. Don't get me wrong.  Journaling is "therapeutic," but it isn't therapy.  For that, one should seek the guidance of a licensed psychiatrist or therapist.

    Personally, I think journaling in school is acceptable, especially since the students are given writing prompts.  It's not like they are given a blank sheet of paper and told to "write something."  Even writing that you don't know what to write about is something.

    In my creative nonfiction class in college, there was a student who couldn't seem to get his assignments completed on time.  On the day he was to read his story out loud for critique, he actually had it done.  He wrote how he didn't know what to write about and by the end of his essay, he had everyone in stitches.  He had taken nothing and turned it into something, if you know what I mean.  As he was writing, he said, the words just flowed into the essay it became, and I learned more about him in that one essay than any of the other essays he wrote for the semester.

    But I am on the fence about teachers reading the content of the students' journals.  Perhaps if the teacher suspected something about a student, such as whether he or she were suicidal or perhaps had a drug or alcohol problem, he or she could selectively read the student's content.  But then, is that acceptable, an invasion of privacy, or does it show favoritism?  What do you think?

    Author Bio

    Susan_Stuck_Author 2.jpg

    Hi, my name is, Susan Stuck.  In 2006, my husband was tragically killed in a work-related accident, leaving me a single mom of four girls.  Following his death, I became an advocate for journaling, often asked to speak at ladies’ retreats on the power of journaling as a healing mechanism.  I began blogging on the power of journaling as well.

    Writing is in my blood.  I get my love of writing from my grandfather, Paul M. Flinn, who was a columnist and historian for the “Bonners Ferry Herald” in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.  My own mother had a brief stint as a columnist for the “Cottonwood Chronicle” in Cottonwood, Idaho.

    I received my Bachelor of Arts: English, creative writing emphasis, at the ripe age of 48 in 2012, after going to school part time, off and on, since 1988.  I am currently writing my memoir, “Learning to Smile Again,” and a coming-of-age novel set in the 1970s rural America, post-Vietnam.

    I would like to someday become a journal consultant.  It’s in the works.