Why a Teacher Journal Will Make All the Difference

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”

— Stephen Covey

You know exactly what is important in the classroom but there are all these roadblocks that pop up along the way.

You want to inspire the uninspired.

You want class to begin in a orderly fashion, everyone knowing exactly what to do and how to go about it. 

You want your students to be spellbound when the bell rings, not packing up and eager to leave. 

You want that pile of tests to magically grade themselves and disappear from your desk.

You want to be more present with your colleagues.

You want to be more patient with wait times, allowing students to process and think.

You want to best utilize your prep periods.

But the problem is it hardly ever works out as you imagine it. The tests don’t grade themselves but the guilt compounds. Your preps are wasted on two emails and a jammed copy machine. Instead of being good with wait time, you call on the student that gives you the answer you are looking for so you can move on.

Urgency beats importance.

Doing the big things are really hard. And it is even harder when we are not focused each day. That is why it is easier to put off grading one more day instead of providing valuable feedback today.

There’s a gap between surviving day-to-day as a teacher and thriving as one.  Surviving renders you mentally exhausted at the end of each week. The weekend is no better.  You live to dread Sunday nights because the cycle will repeat.

Thriving is different. It puts you in control of your teaching and its outcomes. A teaching journal can make all the difference between surviving and thriving.

Goal Setting

I am at my best when I have goals for each day.

For the past few years I have experimented on and off with journaling. I have found that I am most content and gain the greatest feeling of accomplishment when I journal about the things I am grateful for, the specific things I want to accomplish, and the lessons I’ve learned. I feel unfocused and aimless when I don’t.

Mahatma Ghandi believed that, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values,  your values become your destiny.”

That is why I am committed to journaling everyday this school year. I want to write my destiny in the classroom.

The practice has very real physical health benefits for the people who do it. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.

Planning vs Journaling

Journaling differs from lesson planning.

A lesson plan is a teacher’s detailed description of the “learning trajectory.” It is the teacher’s roadmap, and it includes the destination (what the students are supposed to learn), the route (how the goal will be reached), and the gauges (measurements that check how well the goal was reached).

Whenever I have kept a plan book, it has always been an unemotional and detached record of what would happen in my classroom that day. It reflected the curriculum and the standards that I sought to teach, but it repeated phrases like “students will be able to…” that always felt cold, generic, and antiseptic.

Journaling comes from a place of love.

It is more personal.

Journaling is a path to gratitude and self-discovery, and when I have done it consistently it has empowered me to imagine more than the teacher I want to be, it has enabled me to become the person I want to be. Journaling has helped me form my sense of identity and path in life.

On the pages of my journal I avoid standards and jargon. It does not diminish those two important factors in teaching, but it does move beyond them. It allows me to be a human being with thoughts, aspirations, and values, not just a set of standards. 

How to Journal

My most effective journaling comes by setting a limit for each day. I don’t want my journaling to be all-consuming, but I do want it to focus my mind, clarify my goals, and create an inner sanctuary of mindfulness.

Maud Purcell, a psychotherapist and journaling expert, advocates starting small. “My bias given everyone’s hectic schedules is to choose a time limit to which you can reasonably adhere, even if it’s just 5 minutes to start.”

A blank page can be daunting. My journaling takes about 5-10 minutes to complete each morning before school and then I reflect for another 5 minutes at the end of the day and record the lesson I learned.

It is time well spent. In those minutes I am envisioning the teacher I want to be and exploring how I can become that person. I am listening to my voice of ambition in the morning and reflection at the end of the day.

My Template



I have developed a template that I will use each day this year with three areas of focus.

  • how I will make a difference
  • what I want my students to learn
  • what my goals are for the day

This template is available for you, FREE!

I’ve set up the entire month of September, which you can download, because I want you to join me in my pursuit of a great year of teaching.

Journaling daily may be the most powerful threshold habit you can acquire. If done with persistence and endurance, it will enable you to achieve in any area of your life.

start journaling today


And join me in having the best year yet!


One thought on “Why a Teacher Journal Will Make All the Difference

  1. Thank you, Brian. I always intend to do something like this, but like all good intentions, once the school year gets rolling, the urgency of other tasks takes over. This year, our superintendent has added a weekly reflection to our lesson plans template. The useful tool you have created, along with the reasonable expectations you have outlined, will definitely help me to be more real-time reflective, as satisfy my administrative duties.

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