I, like many others that blogged this week, have had hesitations over the years with journal entries. I found them obnoxious. I found them irritating. But most of all, I felt they were inorganic. They were busy work designed to make me feel the crushing weight of my professor’s supremacy over me. Even if left ungraded (as they often were), my journal entries would be riddled with chicken scratch notes and check marks at the top of every page. It never felt like a dialogue with my professor—only mere exchanges in hopes for his satisfaction: constructed responses to reading that felt more like hoops of fire to jump through than actual conversation. Because they never talked back. Not entirely.
I hated it. And yet I don’t hate this.
By “this” I mean this blog post. This is not busy work. There are no hoops of fire. Instead this blog post is one of many this week that together compiles a conversation; this is our discourse. But it is still a journal entry, a series of them. And I think the difference lies in execution.
There is a hierarchy to the classroom. There must always be one, because inevitably there will be grading. That is how college works as an institution and will likely never be changed outside of the most liberal alternative education programs.
I do not wish for an absolution of this hierarchy. I merely think it does not need to be lorded over our students.
Submitting journal entries to one’s professor is simply retention of lecture-based instruction, planting the professor and student as opposite of one another. Journal submission is just another way of attempting to impress the professor, placing them as the authority.
I instead like what Blau asserts, with the sharing of journal entries. Like classroom discussion, reactions to texts should be designated toward a larger audience rather than simply with one’s professor. I think this especially works in concert with how Blau perceives the professor of the classroom.
Last semester I had the opportunity to enroll in the Teaching of Composition course with Dr. Paul Rogers. I learned many great, valuable lessons from his instruction, but perhaps the most important one is the necessity to engage oneself in the instruction. Do not lead the classroom—participate in it.
Blau similarly asserts acting as a participant in classroom activities to make it seem less like busy work. Doing journals with students, and actively engaging in sharing entries, changes the perspective a student may have about the work—as I do with this.
By sharing one’s journal entries with one’s students it also offers them a glimpse at what good “interpretive” reading is like. It allows students the ability to understand what the trained eye of a literary scholar looks for and sees in a written work without it being directly told to them.
In essence, it is teaching without lecturing. It’s learning to leave the lectern behind in classroom instruction.