Critical Thinking Journal Entry Examples Second

Student Objectives

Session 1: An Introduction to Multiple Perspectives

Session 2: Seven Blind Mice

Session 3: Walking in a Character’s Shoes

Session 4: Using an Author as a Mentor

Session 5: Gathering the Ingredients

Session 6: Planning for the Diary

Sessions 7 and 8: Writing From a Different Perspective

Session 9: Sharing Our Learning

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Develop a basic understanding of narrative perspective

  • Become aware of the presence—and the value—of including different voices in a text; and understand how presenting an issue from various vantage points adds multiple layers of meaning

  • Practice research skills by using both print and online sources

  • Organize and synthesize facts from research

  • Use critical literacy skills to view life from the perspective of a selected animal

  • Practice writing factual information from a specific point of view, in a diary format

  • Develop teamwork skills through working with a partner and sharing the responsibilities of research, planning, writing, and creating the final diary from the chosen animal’s perspective

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Session 1: An Introduction to Multiple Perspectives

  1. To begin the exploration of perspective, explain to students that you are going to give them a small piece of a larger picture, which has been cut into pieces.

  2. Model how to create a picture based on a small part of the photograph.

  3. Organize students into small groups of 3–4 students. After groups have been formed, distribute pieces of the photograph to the members of each group. Have students draw what they think the rest of the photo might look like, without looking at the other pieces. (Remind them to focus on their part only.)

  4. Have the members of each group share their illustrations with one another. Engage students in discussion about the similarities and differences of their illustrations. Ask them to predict what the entire picture might be.

  5. Assemble all of the pieces of the picture to reveal the entire image.

  6. After completing the photograph activity, introduce the concept of perspective. Explain that perspective is point of view: how someone sees a situation, their feelings about a situation, their opinions of a situation, and the like. Make connections and provide examples, such as the following:

    • Connect to photograph activity, where each student formed a different idea of the original photograph because each was seeing it from a different perspective.

    • Point out that there are always at least two sides to every story, which is why people go to court and why teachers ask each student involved in a disagreement to tell his or her side of a story.

  7. Relate the idea of perspective to reading: Explain to students that when we read, we see the story from the perspective of the narrator, such as  whoever is telling the story at a particular point. Sometimes the narrator is a character in the story. Some stories have more than one narrator, so we get different perspectives on the story.

    • Explain that we come to understand a character’s perspective by creating mental images.

    • When we pay attention to a character’s perspective (or all of the characters’ perspectives), we are engaging in critical thinking, and this kind of thinking helps us be better readers.

  8. Sum up the explanation of perspective with the analogy of “walking in someone else’s shoes.” In the case of reading, you are taking off your own shoes and putting on the narrator’s shoes to walk through the story.

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Session 2: Seven Blind Mice

  1. Introduce the book Seven Blind Mice by telling students that it shows the perspective of seven different characters. Explain that they will first take apart (deconstruct) the story and sketch it from each character’s perspective and then put together all of their images and see if they can get an idea of the entire picture.

  2. Distribute a copy of the Sketch to Stretch sheet to each student and explain that each block is to be used to depict the perspective of one of the mice in the story.

  3. Activate students’ schema by having them briefly discuss how a mouse’s perspective is different from a human’s. Before reading, have students pretend to take off their shoes and imagine that they are putting on a mouse’s shoes.

  4. Read aloud Seven Blind Mice. Stop after each mouse’s description of the object (pillar, snake, spear, cliff, fan, rope) and have students complete a box on their Sketch to Stretch sheet.

  5. Before reading the ending of the book, have the students try to put together the images from the different perspectives to infer what the entire picture might be. After this discussion, finish the book.

  6. To close the lesson, have the students complete the self-assessment form Can I See Different Perspectives?

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Session 3: Walking in a Character’s Shoes

  1. Introduce the book Fish Is Fish and ask students to predict what the book might be about. Also encourage them to ask questions about the book and think about what kinds of pictures they might see in the book. Encourage students to explain their thoughts as they discuss.

  2. Review the idea of perspective and connect it to Fish Is Fish. Ask students whose perspective they think Fish Is Fish will be told from and why. Then explain to the students that Fish Is Fish is told from the very different perspectives of a fish and of a tadpole that turns into a frog.

  3. Create student partnerships (2 students—if an odd number of students, one group of 3 and modify the activities as necessary). Students will complete the remaining sessions and activities with this partner.

  4. Distribute copies of the Fish Is Fish Venn Diagram and explain how students will fill in the characteristics of Fish and Tadpole/Frog in the appropriate spaces as they read.

  5. Distribute copies of the Fish Is Fish Script. The students will verbally read aloud the script with their partners. Note to students that whoever reads Fish’s part also must read as Narrator 1 and the partner who reads Frog’s part must also read Narrator 2. Provide students with the appropriate labels for their baseball caps (optional).

  6. Circulate and observe as students read through script with their partners.

  7. When students have read through about half of the script (about the halfway mark where Fish and Frog say good night), ask them to stop and jot down their thoughts about each character’s perspective. After they finish the book, they will complete the Fish Is Fish Venn Diagram and discuss as a pair.

  8. Have students discuss in their pairs which character (Fish or Frog) had a more positive perspective of life and why. Then, share thoughts as a class.

  9. To close the lesson, ask students whether playing the part of the fish and the frog after learning about perspective helped them feel as though they were thinking like the fish or frog.

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Session 4: Using an Author as a Mentor

  1. Tell students that during the next two lessons they will complete a project using their skills of thinking from the perspective of someone or something else.

  2. Introduce Diary of a Spider, Diary of a Worm, and Diary of a Fly, and ask students how the books are similar. (Make sure students’ response is that they are all the diary of something.) Also ask students to predict what kind of project they think they will be working on (creating a diary from the perspective of an insect/animal).

  3. Tell students that they will be writing a diary from the perspective of an animal of their choosing. Students will be working with the partners they read with during the last session to create this diary. At this time, students can just begin to think about which animal they would like to “become.” A final decision does not need to be made at this point in time.

  4. Ask students how they think they could learn about the perspective of a particular animal (researching, asking questions, reading about the animal).

  5. Tell students that similarities among an author’s books can be used to form a “recipe” for another story. Distribute one copy of each book to each set of partners. If there aren’t enough copies, give each partnership one book and allow students to skim for about three minutes and then rotate with another group. After students have looked through the books, ask students what similarities they notice among the Diary of a Spider/Worm/Fly books. What is similar in the story lines? The entries?

  6. Distribute copies of Doreen Cronin as Our Mentor. Read through the list of “ingredients,” and have each student identify at least four entries they would like to emulate in their diary. You may want to require that all diaries follow Cronin’s formulas for beginning and ending but that the fifth entry of each student will be either the beginning or the ending. Encourage students to use different diary entry ideas within their pairs and to choose different items to emulate, as they will be writing the diary together.

  7. Distribute a copy of the Research Notes worksheet to each student, and have students go over the different types of facts they should look for about the animal.

  8. Provide students with time to discuss with their partners what animal they will research. You may want to go through your magazines ahead of time so you know which animals you have information for. Different partnerships may choose the same animal as long as information sources are available for each partnership.

  9. Bring students back together for short whole-class instruction. Model how to form additional questions students will need to answer to complete their animal diaries. For example, for a diary entry about the animal at school, you might think aloud, “Hmmm, we learn things in school. What might this animal need to learn when it is young or at some point during its lifetime?” For a diary entry about a nightmare the animal might have, you could think aloud: “Well, when I have nightmares they are always about something I am afraid of, so what might this animal be afraid of—afraid enough to have a nightmare?”

  10. Guide students to begin skimming through the Zoobooks or Ranger Rick magazines to gather some information about animals. Quickly review how the headings on each page can guide the reader to particular information.

  11. To close the session, have two sets of partners meet and share information about what they have found.

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Session 5: Gathering the Ingredients

  1. Ask students what they remember about the concept of perspective from the previous sessions, and review the points covered in the sessions.

    • When we read a story we see it from the perspective, or point of view, of the narrator, who may also be a character in the story.

    • Different characters in the story have different perspectives on the events.

    • Awareness of different perspectives is a type of critical thinking.

  2. Remind students that they will be working to write a diary from the perspective of a chosen animal. If necessary, review research and note-taking techniques.

  3. Have students review the preliminary research they conducted with Zoobooks or Ranger Rick magazines during the last lesson, and formulate some additional questions they would like to answer through their research.

  4. In the computer lab or on classroom computers, have students open the Websites for Research. Explain that students should use these sites to find information about their chosen animals and answer as many questions as possible on the Research Notes worksheet. Assist students in navigating the sites and finding the needed information. Partners can work together to gather the information, or each partner can work separately and compare and combine information in the end.

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Session 6: Planning for the Diary

  1. Have students review their Research Notes from the previous session and select interesting facts to include in their animal diaries.

  2. Distribute copies of the Diary Planning Sheet and explain that students should use the sheet to structure their diaries, filling in what will go on each page of the diary. Model for students how to construct a diary entry using the information gathered along with possible types of entries listed on the Doreen Cronin as Our Mentor handout. For example, information about an animal’s young could be presented as a “Family happenings” diary entry. Students will be working with their partners to decide which entries will be used and who will be writing which entries. Make sure that each set of partners does the following:

    • Decides who will write the opening entry and who will write the closing entry

    • Decides on dates for entries 1–10 ahead of time so that the entries are in consecutive order when written and then combined to form the diary
    If you prefer, you can provide the Diary Planning Sheet in electronic format and have students complete the worksheet on their computers.

  3. As students finish planning, provide each student with five copies of the Diary Entry Template. Students can begin working on their entries today and complete them in Sessions 7 and 8.

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Sessions 7 and 8: Writing From a Different Perspective

  1. If not distributed during the last session, provide each student with five copies of the Diary Entry Template. Allow students 30–40 minutes to work on constructing journal entries from their animal’s perspective. Encourage them to use their skills in thinking from another’s perspective while creating journal entries. Guide and assist students as needed while they create their journal entries.

  2. After students have written all of their entries, they should illustrate the various entries.

  3. Have students create a diary cover including the title (Diary of a ______) and the name(s) of the author(s). Assist students in assembling their diaries, alternating pages by student.

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Session 9: Sharing Our Learning

Set aside a class session for partner sets to share their diaries with the class orally. Since students worked in pairs, photocopy the diaries so that each partner has a copy. After sharing, make sure to distribute Self-Assessment: What Did I Learn? form for each student to complete independently.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Have students use Microsoft PowerPoint or Smart Notebook software to create a digital version of their diaries. Assist them in adding a soundtrack of themselves reading the diary aloud if desired. Upload to the school website to share with students’ families, other classes, and the community.

  • Have students visit younger classes and share their diaries as read-alouds or in a Readers Theatre format.

  • To continue their study of multiple perspectives, have students read The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater and rewrite the text as a script for Readers Theatre.

  • Have students shadow another person—mother, father, teacher, sibling, or even a pet—for several days, taking notes and, if possible, interviewing the subject. Students could then write a diary from the perspective of the person they “shadowed,” using Doreen Cronin’s entries as models.

  • Students can use Fish Is Fish Script for a Readers Theatre performance.

  • Students can visit the Diary of a Fly website to remind them of their project and connect their learning to technology.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • At the end of Session 1, have students assess their ability to understand characters’ perspectives using the self assessment Can I See Different Perspectives?

  • Use the Teacher Rating Form: Sketch to Stretch to reflect upon the students’ success with the Sketch to Stretch activity in Session 2.

  • Use the Teacher Rubric: Fish Is Fish to assess students’ success with using critical thinking skills to think from different perspectives.

  • Observe as the students discuss the similarities between Doreen Cronin’s books, as well as the entries they are interested in. Are students noticing similarities? Are they focusing on a particular subject that they find interesting?

  • Observe students as they formulate additional questions for research. Are their questions appropriate for finding the information needed for their diary entries? Are students formulating questions with ease or do they require assistance in formulating questions?

  • Observe students as they engage in research on the web. Are students locating information with ease? Are they using their worksheets to record and organize information?

  • Assess students’ writing, research, and critical thinking skills through the use of the Teacher Rubric: Student Diary Entries.

  • Students will reflect on their work by completing an end-of-unit Self-Assessment: What Did I Learn?

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Sample Journal Writing

 

Each administrativecertification candidate will be required to complete a minimum of six completeField Journal entries during the first semester.  A minimum of 10 additional entries will be completed during thesecond semester for a total of at least 16 journal entries.  Journal entries must describe, analyze,and interpret administrative activities that candidates observe and/or in whichthey participate.  Thoughtfulreflection and objective appraisal of actions and events should characterizeeach entry.  Relevant documents andartifacts to support and illustrate the journal contents should accompany eachentry.  Candidates should expect tomake additions or changes in journal entries as recommended by the FacultySupervisor.  In addition toperiodic reviews of journal work in progress, the Faculty Supervisor willperform a complete formative evaluation of each journal at the end of the firstsemester.

 

JournalWriting Expectations

Expectationsfor preparing each journal entry include the following:

·       Description:  Describe settings, activities, and people in enough detailto allow the reader to form a clear mental picture of the situations,procedures, or events presented in the journal.  Include identities and roles of people, location, size, andtype of setting, and descriptions of governance structures and functions asappropriate.  Documents attached tojournal entries should be particularly useful in supporting suchdescription.   Note:  Once the backgroundinformation on a school or other site has been presented in the journal, itneed not be repeated in subsequent entries.

 

·       Analysis: Analyze the activities, events, and behaviors reported in terms of rolesand responsibilities, as well as opportunities and constraints.  Focus particularly on administrativeduties and tasks, noting the perspective and motivation of the administratorsinvolved.   Note:  In-depth analysis may require inquiryand discussion with the Site Supervisor and with other participants inactivities and events reported.

 

·       Interpretation:  Complete each entry with an objective appraisal of thevalues, goals, and accomplishments of the people and situation reported.  Assess the outcome of events in termsof purpose and achievement. Consider alternatives to the behaviors observed and offer insights intoalternative actions.  Note:  It is helpful to consider alternativeviewpoints in attempting to evaluate outcomes in most situations.

 

Candidates shouldstrive to make journal entries reader-friendly by using a logical, consistentformat.  As entries may oftenreport complicated procedures and events, it is best to use conventionalparagraphing to arrange entries in a manner that the reader can easilyfollow.  Terms that are used out ofcontext or that have a special meaning in the setting described should beexplained.  Candidates are expectedto proofread each entry for syntax, word choice, and punctuation. 

 

 

 

Sample Journal Entry #1: Thissample is not intended to be a positive example, but to demonstrate the generalformat and nature of a journal entry. Note:  This entry is based on a first journal entry by a candidatewho has not yet mastered the format or content necessary for a successful FieldJournal entry.  The readershould examine this entry with a critical eye.

 

Journal Entry NumberOne:

 

Description

Administrators canreally make it tough on teachers. I’ve had numerous conferences with her about what’s going onin this school, but she doesn’t seem to want to hear it.  We had a very rough time when westarted this year.  Students whocan work by themselves do okay, but the others continue to fail.  Since my time to work individually withthem has been cut in half, they don’t stand much of a chance.   The problem is how the studentsare distributed among the classrooms. We had this meeting and the principal asked me to take notes on whathappened and what was decided.  Iwas supposed to watch her to see how she handled a difficult situation.  Needless to say, it didn’t govery well.

 

She listened to whateverybody had to say, but she seemed to get defensive when one teacherdescribed her classroom as a “dumping ground” for all the problemstudents.  I don’t think anadministrator should say that she wants to listen to people’s concernsand then cut them off when they say things she doesn’t want to hear.  It took a long time to get to the realproblem.  We have so many studentsmoving in and out and being tested for different programs that we justdon’t have any stability. The racial and socioeconomic levels vary greatly among our students, andshe seems to want to ignore this completely.  After about an hour, she said she had another meeting andthat we would have to meet again to discuss this further.

 

Analysis

It wasn’t likethis last year.  Our old principalspent a lot of time trying to place students in classes with a lot of attentionto their individual needs, and he listened to what the teachers had to say.   Another thing that the teachersbrought up was the way the office does not follow through on disciplineprocedures.  Like everybody else, Ihave had some problem controlling my class on some occasions this year, and Ithink it has a lot to do with the way the principal “sets the tone”for student behavior.  Some of thethings I learned from observing this meeting are that administrators need tolisten to their faculties.  Theyneed to consider all of the issues involved in a problem.  And most importantly, they need to tryto work out some sort of solution that improves the situation and thateverybody can live with. 

 

Interpretation

After this first“mentoring” experience, I am not so sure that I want to be anadministrator.  For example, when Ibrought up the problem of discipline, she looked at me like I wasn’tsupposed to say anything.  Then shesaid I should look at the handbook to be sure that the proper procedures hadbeen followed.  It was veryfrustrating.  I don’t have aclue about what is going on with her. The meeting just sort of ended when she got up and said she had to go tothe district office for a special education meeting.  So far, she hasn’t set a date for another meeting, andthings just go along as they did before.

 


Sample Journal Entry 2:  This sampleis intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journal entry.  Note:  This entry is based on a second journalentry by a candidate who was making reasonably good progress in mastering theformat and content necessary for a successful Field Journal entry.  The  reader should critically examine this entry for itsinformative value.

 

Journal Entry No. 2

 

Description

           SmithvilleMiddle School is a relative new school, located on the edge of a small, rapidlygrowing community in West Central Illinois.  Our population is a mix of white, African-American, someHispanic and a small number of Asian students.  The problem is that our enrollment has grown from about 450last year to nearly 500 this year. This has put a considerable strain on the building, the faculty, and theadministration.  When I first spoketo our principal, Mr. Davies, about being my site supervisor for this year, hesaid, “Well, you’ll have a lot to observe right from thebeginning.  Our first facultymeeting should be interesting.” Mr. Davies is an energetic man in his late forties.  He has been a principal for elevenyears, and although he is usually pretty cheerful, he was not looking forwardto the opening of school this year. We are going to be short on classrooms, and class size will have to goup. 

 

           Themeeting was scheduled for 8:30 on the first morning back after summervacation.  It was held in thelibrary where the faculty gathered for coffee and doughnuts before the meetingstarted.  Mr. Davies usually standsat a podium set up at one end of the room. The teachers sit at tables aroundthe room and tend to laugh and talk a lot until the meeting gets started.  They got quiet when Mr. Davies calledthe meeting to order.  He wentthrough the usual announcements and information items we have on the openingday of school, and then we got bad news. He explained the situation in a very matter-of-fact way, outlined someof the steps he saw that the school could take to deal with it, and theninvited people to comment.  Nobodysaid much at first, then a few of the older teachers began to complain abouthow the school board needed to hire more teachers and the superintendent shouldput a lot more money into the school. Mr. Davies listened, but did not comment.  Other teachers started to ask questions about the classschedule and how teachers would have to share space and other questions aboutbooks and the curriculum, especially the science rooms.  Mr. Davies explained how some questionswere answered in the handouts that teachers had received in their mailboxesthat morning.  He took notes onother things they asked and said he would attempt to answer as many questionsas he could at the next meeting. It took a long time to hear everyone, and by the time the meeting was over,nobody was looking very happy. 

 

Analysis

           Eventhough he tried to keep things upbeat by interspersing his explanations withhumor and not dwelling on the negative side, Mr. Davies did not really get theschool year off to a very good start. There are going to be a lot of changes in the school this year to makeroom for the increased number of students and all the problems that go withmore students.  Some teachersseemed pretty angry.  Mr. Daviestried to put the best face on it that he could.  He didn’t try to sugarcoat anything.  He just gave it to us straightout.  I think he expected thecomplaints that he got from people who wanted to place blame.  He didn’t let them botherhim.  He just listened, let thepeople know that he heard them, and then moved on.  He also didn’t just read from the packet ofinformation to the teachers when what they wanted to know was given there.  He just told them where to look foranswers.  It was a difficult kindof meeting to have.

 

Interpretation

           I triedto think about ways in which I would have conducted the meeting if I had beenthe principal.  I’m not sureI could have done any better.  Ithink that I somehow expected more of Mr. Davies.  I guess I expected him to cheer everyone up, even though weare facing a difficult year.  Wetend to expect too much of administrators sometimes.  We want them to solve all our problems and just hand us theanswers.  He let us know that he istrying to deal with the situation, like writing down the questions hecouldn’t answer and saying he’d get back to people on them.  He cares about people’s concerns,but he also let us know that we all have to work together to solve our problemsand that he’s not able to wave a magic wand and make everythingokay.  I asked him the next morninghow he thought the meeting went. He said he thought the teachers took the bad news better than he hadexpected and that he was glad that people had not gotten really upset.  As I was leaving his office, he said,“It’s going to be a long year.”


Sample Journal Entry 3:  Thissample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journalentry.  Note  This entry is based ona third  journal entry by acandidate  who is making  progress in developing the“Description” portion of the entry, but needs to work on developing the “Analysis”and “Interpretation” necessary for a successful Field Journalentry.  The reader shouldcritically examine this entry for it reflective value.

 

Journal Entry NumberThree.

 

Description

           AsI’ve described it in my first journal entry, Rushmore is a small,friendly kind of elementary school. We try to be open and welcoming toeverybody, but we’ve had to draw the line recently because of increasedsecurity concerns.  We are locatedin a part of town that is not a very nice neighborhood.  An incident early last week has madeeveryone nervous and a lot more concerned about who is in the building. 

 

           Iaccompany the principal each day during some of his building supervision.  As the principal and I were making therounds just after the lunch period began, we saw a tall man in a raincoat enterthe building through the parking lot entrance.  That door is kept locked and the man only got in because astudent on the way to the cafeteria saw him at the door and let him in.  As soon as he saw us, the man movedquickly down the hall away from us. We followed him, and he continued acting suspiciously, looking over hisshoulder, and hurrying away.  Theprincipal kept him in sight, while I went back to the office and called thepolice.  The man was out of thebuilding by the time the police arrived. They checked the neighborhood but didn’t find anyone matching thedescription. 

 

           About ayear ago the principal decided to limit access to our building by keeping alldoors locked except for the main entrance door right in front of the his officewhere the office staff can easily monitor who comes and goes.  Our building is a big rectangle, with acenter courtyard.  We haveentrances at all four corners.  Thecorner farthest from the principal’s office leads to the parking lot atthe rear of the building.  Theproblem is that we have many parents who like to come into the building fromthe back parking lot where they park because there is usually no place on thestreet in front as the teachers and secretaries get these parking places early in the morning.  So, the parents knock on the door thereuntil someone hears them and opens it. Teachers do this as well as students.  It has become routine for students to hear someone knock andthen run and open the door for them. I pointed out to the principal that this defeats the purpose of lockingthe doors.  He agreed that it was aproblem, but he didn’t seem too interested in doing something aboutit.  When I continued to talk aboutit, he gave me the responsibility of figuring out how to deal with it.

 

           Ithought about the problem, and the next day I suggested a number of things wecould do.  We already have signsthat say all visitors must register in the office.  I suggested that we put up signs on all the doors sayingthat visitors may only enter through the main front entrance.  I realize that parents will see this asa hardship because they will have to walk all the way around the building fromthe parking lot to get in.  But ifwe explained it to them in the weekly newsletter, I think they would understandthe safety issue and be able to deal with the inconvenience.        Ialso suggested that we have all the teachers and secretaries park in the backlot, leaving the street parking in front available to parents and othervisitors.  My final suggestion wasthat we make sure that our students understand that they should no longer letpeople in the building through any of the doors.

 

           Theprincipal was not very enthusiastic about my ideas, but he let me present themat the faculty meeting after school that day.  I outlined my suggestions and tried to emphasize the needfor school safety and how we need to limit access to our building.  Everything was fine until I made thesuggestion that teachers should park at the back of the school.  That caused a very heateddiscussion.  Some of the teachersflatly refused to park in the back lot. One teacher said, “I have parked along the street for over 20years, and I sure am not going to change it now when I am about toretire!”  Another teachertold how her new car got dented when she parked in the back lot.  Another teacher said, “Wedon’t have that many parents who even bother to visit the school, so wereally don’t need to reserve parking spaces just for them.”  While a few teachers did agree to startusing the back lot, most said nothing when I suggested that this could be avoluntary thing.

 

           Inoticed that the principal said nothing at all.  He just went on to another item on the agenda.  I stayed after the meeting and wentback to the office to ask what he was thinking and what he planned to do aboutthe lack of faculty support for solving the problem.  He said there wasn’t much we could do, and that“we have to simply see if teachers will park in the back lotvoluntarily.”  He would alsonot agree to put up signs restricting parents to enter only by the maindoor.  He said that he “didnot want teachers or parents “upset at this time.” 

 

Analysis

           It ishard to be objective in analyzing this situation.  Needless to say, I was very frustrated by his response.  I have noted before that my principaldoes not like dissension.  He tendsto back down on issues when confronted with opposition.  How can we solve building problems whenhe won’t make a policy because he is afraid of offending people or makingthem angry?   When the greatergood of the whole building is at issue, how can you let the objections andwhining of a few stop changes for the better? 

 

Interpretation

           The wayI see it, there is a time for assertive leadership by administrators and thisis one of those times.  Thebuilding principal is charged with having the greater good of the students,staff, and community at heart when making decisions.  Part of being a leader is taking a stand and not backingdown just because some people object to being inconvenienced or to changing theway they do things.  Leadershipmeans thinking always about the welfare of the entire group. 

 

          

 


Sample Journal Entry 4:  Thissample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journalentry.  Note:  This entryis based on a fourth journal entry by a candidate  who is making progress in developing the”Analysis” and “Interpretation” portions of  the entry.  The reader should examine this entry forits interpretative value.

 

 

Journal Entry Four.

 

Description

           Dr.Miller has been a high school principal for 16 years, with 12 years here atStanford High School.  I am luckyto have her for my site supervisor because she is willing to talk to me abouther work and what she thinks of it. I really enjoy our discussions of what roles a principal has to playevery day on the job.  This week,we got into a discussion about how much influence an administrator really hasover what teachers do in their classrooms.  She pointed out a number of things that I hadn’treally thought about before.

 

           One ofthe things that Dr. Miller said that impressed me was how time consuming it canbe to help teachers with disciplinary problems, especially when parents becomeactively involved.  As she put it,“Things can get nasty, and you have to be a kind of politician to keepthem under control.”  Shefelt that as a result of many societal influences, such as the decline of theimportance of religion and government institutions and the increasinglynegative attitudes toward authority, some parents have a very negative reactiontoward attempts by teachers and schools to discipline their children.  Too often, she said, they areantagonistic and make the situation worse.  They say things like, “Why are you picking on mykid?” and “It’s the school’s fault, not his!”  And, maybe worse, they just refuse totake an interest in what their children are doing in school.  Administrators can play an importantpart in helping teachers deal with difficult behavior problems, or they cansort of step back and say, “Let the teachers deal with it.” 

 

           Now, Dr.Miller is a staunch supporter of her teachers.  She starts with the assumption that her teachers areprofessionals and have reasons for the actions they take—especially inconfrontations with students. However, the attitude of many parents forces her to put teachers throughwhat may seem to them to be “the third degree.”  She does this to ensure that she knowswhat actually did happen and what did not happen.  When dealing with aggressive parents, Dr. Miller says shehas to know that what teachers do is appropriate and defensible.  This is absolutely necessary because ofincreasing legal considerations. She is afraid, however, that her close questioning of teachers may beseen as a lack of confidence in them.   “Communication is the most important part ofhandling these situations,” she said.  “You have to make things very clear toeverybody.” 

 

Analysis

           I findit ironic that steps taken by administrators to support the efforts anddecisions of teachers may be perceived by them as a challenge to theirjudgment.  I also think that mostteachers may not understand or appreciate the personal, logistical, and legalcomplexity of dealing with volatile situations.  People are willing to sue over just about anything nowdays.  Principals have to know whatthe law has to say about the liability of the school and the teachers.   And, they have to be very carefulin supporting their staff in the most constructive way.  Every situation has to be takenseriously.  You can’t justassume anything.

 

           Anotheraspect of her job that Dr. Miller talked about is how little time she has to visitclasses and talk to teachers about instruction.  She said that she likes to sit in on classes and onteachers’ discussions about teaching, but other than classroom visits tomeet teacher evaluation requirements, she doesn’t have enough time to dothat.  Dr. Miller stressed thatstudent academic success is of primary importance, and there are a lot ofcurriculum issues that need to be addressed.  But she knows that she cannot be an expert in math, science,English, P.E. and all the other subjects, yet people, especially in thecommunity, expect her to be able to answer any question about what is taught inthe school.  Dr. Miller believesthat the teachers, much more than the principal, are the “front line”people of the school, and have the biggest impact on the school culture and theacademic performance of the students.   As she put it, “Good teachers can only make theprincipal look better.  You have tohire the best.”

 

Interpretation

           I stillsee administrators as managers for the most part.  They have to see that the school is up and running each dayand that everything goes smoothly. On the other hand, they also have to be willing to let others take theinitiative, even encourage teachers to be creative and to handle problems ontheir own.  At the same time,however, if a principal does encourage teachers to act as professionals, shemust be willing to accept their approaches, methods, and philosophies, even ifthey are different from hers.  Idon’t think you can have it both ways.  I think that above all, administrators have to be tolerant,not only because people disagree and society’s values change, but becausethey have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.  You can’t just sit in your officeand do things “by the book” if you want to be a school leader.

 

           Dr.Miller told this story from her first job as principal of a small rural highschool in Southern Illinois.  Thebuilding had a very old heating system with a boiler that was cantankerous andliving on borrowed time.  It seemsthe principal before her had some mechanical ability and was able to keep thesystem running.  Dr. Miller had torely on others to coax the thing to work when the weather got cold.  As a result, everyone blamed her whenit stopped working.  Thecommunity’s estimate of her job as principal became linked to whether ornot the boiler worked.  As far asthe public was concerned, if she couldn’t do that, how could she beexpected to run a school?  Itdidn’t matter how many other things she did well, if the school was cold,she was not doing her job. 

 


Sample Journal Entry 5:  Thissample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journalentry.  Note:  This entry is based on a fifth journalentry by a candidate who is making progress but needs to work more indeveloping a balanced presentation in all three portions of the journal entry.  The reader should examine this entry forits overall descriptive, analytical, and interpretative value.

 

Journal Entry 5.

 

Description

           OnFriday, I attended a conference on effective school change featuring Dr.Michael Fullan, the famous author on school change.  My site supervisor asked me to attend with him.  Effective school change is one of thegoals of our school, so I attended along with a group of administrators fromour district.  One of thoseattending was an assistant superintendent.

 

           Theconference was held at the conference center of a local hotel.  Upon arrival name tags were issued, seatswere assigned, and I found that all the people from my district and threeadministrators from another district were assigned to the one table.  When the introductions began, the roomwas packed with more than 200 people from around the state.  Dr. Fullan used humor to keep theattention of his audience.  Atlunchtime, our group decided to go out for lunch.  We had an enjoyable time with conversation about the morning’sevents that comfortably included everyone.  In the afternoon session, Dr. Fullan outlined his work witha district in Canada and made a good impression on the people at my table.  The day closed with questions from theaudience and final remarks from Dr. Fullan.  None of the administrators from my district asked anyquestions.  As we left, theadministrators talked about returning to their buildings to see what hadhappened during their absence.  Idon’t know if they did that or not.

 

           Beforethe conference began, several administrators and I talked about how much weenjoyed reading Fullan. We discussed the ideas we had gotten from his readingsand which of his books we had read. During the morning speech, Fullan presented the ideas we had read about,but the live delivery and his sense of humor made it worth while.  However, my principal apologized to mefor taking an entire day to listen to material we already knew about.  I noticed that the assistantsuperintendent took many notes and appeared to be keeping track of how theother administrators from our district responded to the speaker.  I was not sure why he was doingthat.  At lunch he seemed mostly tolisten while the other administrators talked.  During the lunch, the assistant superintendent made it clearthat he would be charging the lunch to the district.  The others made no comment, and made no particular effort toinclude him in their discussion. They did make a conscious effort to include me, however, and I did notfeel like an “outsider,” although I was careful to remain somewhatdetached and try not to act like I was barging in on them.

 

Analysis.

           Theadministrators generally seemed to be in a very good mood, apparently glad tobe away from their buildings for a day. It was evidently a calm day in the district, as no one received anymessages, but then no one called to check on their buildings, either.  I noticed that the administratorsseemed very respectful of the speaker and did not talk among themselves whilehe was making his presentations.  I am used to teachers being much ruder at conferences, talking,knitting, and even grading papers throughout a presentation.

 

           It wasinteresting to me that during lunch, nobody even suggested not going back forthe afternoon session.  If I hadbeen with a group of teachers, I know someone would have said that we werewasting our time and should skip the afternoon.  Looking at it from an administrator’s perspective, Ifelt like they saw themselves as fulfilling a professional developmentrequirement of some sort.  I wasimpressed that they took it so seriously. Maybe some of them really hadn’t read Fullan and didn’t wantto admit it to the others.  Atleast they all came away with some good jokes for their own faculty and PTAmeetings.

 

Interpretation

           Isuppose that I had my expectations set too high for the day.  I consider it a privilege to hearauthors I have read and whom I respect. I felt that my time was not wasted, even though I recognized most ofwhat Fullan said from two graduate courses I have taken at the University ofIllinois.  The opportunity toobserve a group of administrators made it an interesting day.  I was very interested in how theyinteracted with each other, what they talked about, and their obvious feelingof camaraderie. 

 

Alot of what they said had to do with what was going on in the district, but Inoticed that they were kind of careful not to say anything that was critical ofthe district or the school board or its policies.  I think the presence of the assistant superintendent keptthem from being very open and candid in their discussion.  Of course, I have to remember that mybeing there also had an effect. They seemed to accept me, some went out of their way to befriendly.  They all knew why I wasthere, but nobody mentioned it or asked me about how I was doing in theclinical experience course.  I didn’tfeel like an outsider, but maybe I really was.  I guess I was more of a guest from their perspective, onewho should see them at their best behavior. 

 

Maybeadministrators have to be careful always to have people see them at their bestbehavior as a part of their public image as a professional educator.  Maybe it takes some acting ability tobe a successful administrator.  Iwonder how they would have acted at lunch if the assistant superintendent and Ihad not been there.

 

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Ael revised 2/15/02

 

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