Sample Journal Writing
Each administrative certification candidate will be required to complete a minimum of six complete Field Journal entries during the first semester. A minimum of 10 additional entries will be completed during the second 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 which they participate. Thoughtful reflection and objective appraisal of actions and events should characterize each entry. Relevant documents and artifacts to support and illustrate the journal contents should accompany each entry. Candidates should expect to make additions or changes in journal entries as recommended by the Faculty Supervisor. In addition to periodic reviews of journal work in progress, the Faculty Supervisor will perform a complete formative evaluation of each journal at the end of the first semester.
Journal Writing Expectations
Expectations for preparing each journal entry include the following:
· Description: Describe settings, activities, and people in enough detail to 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, and type of setting, and descriptions of governance structures and functions as appropriate. Documents attached to journal entries should be particularly useful in supporting such description. Note: Once the background information on a school or other site has been presented in the journal, it need not be repeated in subsequent entries.
· Analysis: Analyze the activities, events, and behaviors reported in terms of roles and responsibilities, as well as opportunities and constraints. Focus particularly on administrative duties and tasks, noting the perspective and motivation of the administrators involved. Note: In-depth analysis may require inquiry and discussion with the Site Supervisor and with other participants in activities and events reported.
· Interpretation: Complete each entry with an objective appraisal of the values, goals, and accomplishments of the people and situation reported. Assess the outcome of events in terms of purpose and achievement. Consider alternatives to the behaviors observed and offer insights into alternative actions. Note: It is helpful to consider alternative viewpoints in attempting to evaluate outcomes in most situations.
Candidates should strive to make journal entries reader-friendly by using a logical, consistent format. As entries may often report complicated procedures and events, it is best to use conventional paragraphing to arrange entries in a manner that the reader can easily follow. Terms that are used out of context or that have a special meaning in the setting described should be explained. Candidates are expected to proofread each entry for syntax, word choice, and punctuation.
Sample Journal Entry #1: This sample is not intended to be a positive example, but to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journal entry. Note: This entry is based on a first journal entry by a candidate who has not yet mastered the format or content necessary for a successful Field Journal entry. The reader should examine this entry with a critical eye.
Journal Entry Number One:
Administrators can really make it tough on teachers. I’ve had numerous conferences with her about what’s going on in this school, but she doesn’t seem to want to hear it. We had a very rough time when we started this year. Students who can work by themselves do okay, but the others continue to fail. Since my time to work individually with them has been cut in half, they don’t stand much of a chance. The problem is how the students are distributed among the classrooms. We had this meeting and the principal asked me to take notes on what happened and what was decided. I was supposed to watch her to see how she handled a difficult situation. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well.
She listened to what everybody had to say, but she seemed to get defensive when one teacher described her classroom as a “dumping ground” for all the problem students. I don’t think an administrator should say that she wants to listen to people’s concerns and then cut them off when they say things she doesn’t want to hear. It took a long time to get to the real problem. We have so many students moving in and out and being tested for different programs that we just don’t have any stability. The racial and socioeconomic levels vary greatly among our students, and she seems to want to ignore this completely. After about an hour, she said she had another meeting and that we would have to meet again to discuss this further.
It wasn’t like this last year. Our old principal spent a lot of time trying to place students in classes with a lot of attention to their individual needs, and he listened to what the teachers had to say. Another thing that the teachers brought up was the way the office does not follow through on discipline procedures. Like everybody else, I have had some problem controlling my class on some occasions this year, and I think it has a lot to do with the way the principal “sets the tone” for student behavior. Some of the things I learned from observing this meeting are that administrators need to listen to their faculties. They need to consider all of the issues involved in a problem. And most importantly, they need to try to work out some sort of solution that improves the situation and that everybody can live with.
After this first “mentoring” experience, I am not so sure that I want to be an administrator. For example, when I brought up the problem of discipline, she looked at me like I wasn’t supposed to say anything. Then she said I should look at the handbook to be sure that the proper procedures had been followed. It was very frustrating. I don’t have a clue about what is going on with her. The meeting just sort of ended when she got up and said she had to go to the district office for a special education meeting. So far, she hasn’t set a date for another meeting, and things just go along as they did before.
Sample Journal Entry 2: This sample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journal entry. Note: This entry is based on a second journal entry by a candidate who was making reasonably good progress in mastering the format and content necessary for a successful Field Journal entry. The reader should critically examine this entry for its informative value.
Journal Entry No. 2
Smithville Middle School is a relative new school, located on the edge of a small, rapidly growing community in West Central Illinois. Our population is a mix of white, African-American, some Hispanic and a small number of Asian students. The problem is that our enrollment has grown from about 450 last year to nearly 500 this year. This has put a considerable strain on the building, the faculty, and the administration. When I first spoke to our principal, Mr. Davies, about being my site supervisor for this year, he said, “Well, you’ll have a lot to observe right from the beginning. Our first faculty meeting should be interesting.” Mr. Davies is an energetic man in his late forties. He has been a principal for eleven years, and although he is usually pretty cheerful, he was not looking forward to the opening of school this year. We are going to be short on classrooms, and class size will have to go up.
The meeting was scheduled for 8:30 on the first morning back after summer vacation. It was held in the library where the faculty gathered for coffee and doughnuts before the meeting started. Mr. Davies usually stands at a podium set up at one end of the room. The teachers sit at tables around the room and tend to laugh and talk a lot until the meeting gets started. They got quiet when Mr. Davies called the meeting to order. He went through the usual announcements and information items we have on the opening day of school, and then we got bad news. He explained the situation in a very matter-of-fact way, outlined some of the steps he saw that the school could take to deal with it, and then invited people to comment. Nobody said much at first, then a few of the older teachers began to complain about how the school board needed to hire more teachers and the superintendent should put a lot more money into the school. Mr. Davies listened, but did not comment. Other teachers started to ask questions about the class schedule and how teachers would have to share space and other questions about books and the curriculum, especially the science rooms. Mr. Davies explained how some questions were answered in the handouts that teachers had received in their mailboxes that morning. He took notes on other things they asked and said he would attempt to answer as many questions as 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.
Even though he tried to keep things upbeat by interspersing his explanations with humor and not dwelling on the negative side, Mr. Davies did not really get the school year off to a very good start. There are going to be a lot of changes in the school this year to make room for the increased number of students and all the problems that go with more students. Some teachers seemed pretty angry. Mr. Davies tried to put the best face on it that he could. He didn’t try to sugarcoat anything. He just gave it to us straight out. I think he expected the complaints that he got from people who wanted to place blame. He didn’t let them bother him. He just listened, let the people know that he heard them, and then moved on. He also didn’t just read from the packet of information to the teachers when what they wanted to know was given there. He just told them where to look for answers. It was a difficult kind of meeting to have.
I tried to think about ways in which I would have conducted the meeting if I had been the principal. I’m not sure I could have done any better. I think that I somehow expected more of Mr. Davies. I guess I expected him to cheer everyone up, even though we are facing a difficult year. We tend to expect too much of administrators sometimes. We want them to solve all our problems and just hand us the answers. He let us know that he is trying to deal with the situation, like writing down the questions he couldn’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 problems and that he’s not able to wave a magic wand and make everything okay. I asked him the next morning how he thought the meeting went. He said he thought the teachers took the bad news better than he had expected 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: This sample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journal entry. Note This entry is based on a third journal entry by a candidate 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 Journal entry. The reader should critically examine this entry for it reflective value.
Journal Entry Number Three.
As I’ve described it in my first journal entry, Rushmore is a small, friendly kind of elementary school. We try to be open and welcoming to everybody, but we’ve had to draw the line recently because of increased security concerns. We are located in a part of town that is not a very nice neighborhood. An incident early last week has made everyone nervous and a lot more concerned about who is in the building.
I accompany the principal each day during some of his building supervision. As the principal and I were making the rounds just after the lunch period began, we saw a tall man in a raincoat enter the building through the parking lot entrance. That door is kept locked and the man only got in because a student on the way to the cafeteria saw him at the door and let him in. As soon as he saw us, the man moved quickly down the hall away from us. We followed him, and he continued acting suspiciously, looking over his shoulder, and hurrying away. The principal kept him in sight, while I went back to the office and called the police. The man was out of the building by the time the police arrived. They checked the neighborhood but didn’t find anyone matching the description.
About a year ago the principal decided to limit access to our building by keeping all doors locked except for the main entrance door right in front of the his office where the office staff can easily monitor who comes and goes. Our building is a big rectangle, with a center courtyard. We have entrances at all four corners. The corner farthest from the principal’s office leads to the parking lot at the rear of the building. The problem is that we have many parents who like to come into the building from the back parking lot where they park because there is usually no place on the street in front as the teachers and secretaries get these parking places early in the morning. So, the parents knock on the door there until someone hears them and opens it. Teachers do this as well as students. It has become routine for students to hear someone knock and then run and open the door for them. I pointed out to the principal that this defeats the purpose of locking the doors. He agreed that it was a problem, but he didn’t seem too interested in doing something about it. When I continued to talk about it, he gave me the responsibility of figuring out how to deal with it.
I thought about the problem, and the next day I suggested a number of things we could do. We already have signs that say all visitors must register in the office. I suggested that we put up signs on all the doors saying that visitors may only enter through the main front entrance. I realize that parents will see this as a hardship because they will have to walk all the way around the building from the parking lot to get in. But if we explained it to them in the weekly newsletter, I think they would understand the safety issue and be able to deal with the inconvenience. I also suggested that we have all the teachers and secretaries park in the back lot, leaving the street parking in front available to parents and other visitors. My final suggestion was that we make sure that our students understand that they should no longer let people in the building through any of the doors.
The principal was not very enthusiastic about my ideas, but he let me present them at the faculty meeting after school that day. I outlined my suggestions and tried to emphasize the need for school safety and how we need to limit access to our building. Everything was fine until I made the suggestion that teachers should park at the back of the school. That caused a very heated discussion. Some of the teachers flatly refused to park in the back lot. One teacher said, “I have parked along the street for over 20 years, and I sure am not going to change it now when I am about to retire!” Another teacher told how her new car got dented when she parked in the back lot. Another teacher said, “We don’t have that many parents who even bother to visit the school, so we really don’t need to reserve parking spaces just for them.” While a few teachers did agree to start using the back lot, most said nothing when I suggested that this could be a voluntary thing.
I noticed that the principal said nothing at all. He just went on to another item on the agenda. I stayed after the meeting and went back to the office to ask what he was thinking and what he planned to do about the 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 lot voluntarily.” He would also not agree to put up signs restricting parents to enter only by the main door. He said that he “did not want teachers or parents “upset at this time.”
It is hard to be objective in analyzing this situation. Needless to say, I was very frustrated by his response. I have noted before that my principal does not like dissension. He tends to back down on issues when confronted with opposition. How can we solve building problems when he won’t make a policy because he is afraid of offending people or making them angry? When the greater good of the whole building is at issue, how can you let the objections and whining of a few stop changes for the better?
The way I see it, there is a time for assertive leadership by administrators and this is one of those times. The building 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 backing down just because some people object to being inconvenienced or to changing the way they do things. Leadership means thinking always about the welfare of the entire group.
Sample Journal Entry 4: This sample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journal entry. Note: This entry is 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 for its interpretative value.
Journal Entry Four.
Dr. Miller has been a high school principal for 16 years, with 12 years here at Stanford High School. I am lucky to have her for my site supervisor because she is willing to talk to me about her work and what she thinks of it. I really enjoy our discussions of what roles a principal has to play every day on the job. This week, we got into a discussion about how much influence an administrator really has over what teachers do in their classrooms. She pointed out a number of things that I hadn’t really thought about before.
One of the things that Dr. Miller said that impressed me was how time consuming it can be to help teachers with disciplinary problems, especially when parents become actively involved. As she put it, “Things can get nasty, and you have to be a kind of politician to keep them under control.” She felt that as a result of many societal influences, such as the decline of the importance of religion and government institutions and the increasingly negative attitudes toward authority, some parents have a very negative reaction toward attempts by teachers and schools to discipline their children. Too often, she said, they are antagonistic and make the situation worse. They say things like, “Why are you picking on my kid?” and “It’s the school’s fault, not his!” And, maybe worse, they just refuse to take an interest in what their children are doing in school. Administrators can play an important part in helping teachers deal with difficult behavior problems, or they can sort 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 are professionals and have reasons for the actions they take—especially in confrontations with students. However, the attitude of many parents forces her to put teachers through what may seem to them to be “the third degree.” She does this to ensure that she knows what actually did happen and what did not happen. When dealing with aggressive parents, Dr. Miller says she has to know that what teachers do is appropriate and defensible. This is absolutely necessary because of increasing legal considerations. She is afraid, however, that her close questioning of teachers may be seen as a lack of confidence in them. “Communication is the most important part of handling these situations,” she said. “You have to make things very clear to everybody.”
I find it ironic that steps taken by administrators to support the efforts and decisions of teachers may be perceived by them as a challenge to their judgment. I also think that most teachers may not understand or appreciate the personal, logistical, and legal complexity of dealing with volatile situations. People are willing to sue over just about anything now days. Principals have to know what the law has to say about the liability of the school and the teachers. And, they have to be very careful in supporting their staff in the most constructive way. Every situation has to be taken seriously. You can’t just assume anything.
Another aspect of her job that Dr. Miller talked about is how little time she has to visit classes and talk to teachers about instruction. She said that she likes to sit in on classes and on teachers’ discussions about teaching, but other than classroom visits to meet teacher evaluation requirements, she doesn’t have enough time to do that. Dr. Miller stressed that student academic success is of primary importance, and there are a lot of curriculum 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 the community, expect her to be able to answer any question about what is taught in the school. Dr. Miller believes that 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 the academic performance of the students. As she put it, “Good teachers can only make the principal look better. You have to hire the best.”
I still see administrators as managers for the most part. They have to see that the school is up and running each day and that everything goes smoothly. On the other hand, they also have to be willing to let others take the initiative, even encourage teachers to be creative and to handle problems on their own. At the same time, however, if a principal does encourage teachers to act as professionals, she must be willing to accept their approaches, methods, and philosophies, even if they are different from hers. I don’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 because they have to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. You can’t just sit in your office and 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 high school in Southern Illinois. The building had a very old heating system with a boiler that was cantankerous and living on borrowed time. It seems the principal before her had some mechanical ability and was able to keep the system running. Dr. Miller had to rely on others to coax the thing to work when the weather got cold. As a result, everyone blamed her when it stopped working. The community’s estimate of her job as principal became linked to whether or not the boiler worked. As far as the public was concerned, if she couldn’t do that, how could she be expected to run a school? It didn’t matter how many other things she did well, if the school was cold, she was not doing her job.
Sample Journal Entry 5: This sample is intended to demonstrate the general format and nature of a journal entry. Note: This entry is based on a fifth journal entry by a candidate who is making progress but needs to work more in developing a balanced presentation in all three portions of the journal entry. The reader should examine this entry for its overall descriptive, analytical, and interpretative value.
Journal Entry 5.
On Friday, 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 the goals of our school, so I attended along with a group of administrators from our district. One of those attending was an assistant superintendent.
The conference was held at the conference center of a local hotel. Upon arrival name tags were issued, seats were assigned, and I found that all the people from my district and three administrators from another district were assigned to the one table. When the introductions began, the room was packed with more than 200 people from around the state. Dr. Fullan used humor to keep the attention of his audience. At lunchtime, our group decided to go out for lunch. We had an enjoyable time with conversation about the morning’s events that comfortably included everyone. In the afternoon session, Dr. Fullan outlined his work with a district in Canada and made a good impression on the people at my table. The day closed with questions from the audience and final remarks from Dr. Fullan. None of the administrators from my district asked any questions. As we left, the administrators talked about returning to their buildings to see what had happened during their absence. I don’t know if they did that or not.
Before the conference began, several administrators and I talked about how much we enjoyed reading Fullan. We discussed the ideas we had gotten from his readings and 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 me for taking an entire day to listen to material we already knew about. I noticed that the assistant superintendent took many notes and appeared to be keeping track of how the other administrators from our district responded to the speaker. I was not sure why he was doing that. At lunch he seemed mostly to listen while the other administrators talked. During the lunch, the assistant superintendent made it clear that he would be charging the lunch to the district. The others made no comment, and made no particular effort to include him in their discussion. They did make a conscious effort to include me, however, and I did not feel like an “outsider,” although I was careful to remain somewhat detached and try not to act like I was barging in on them.
The administrators generally seemed to be in a very good mood, apparently glad to be away from their buildings for a day. It was evidently a calm day in the district, as no one received any messages, but then no one called to check on their buildings, either. I noticed that the administrators seemed very respectful of the speaker and did not talk among themselves while he was making his presentations. I am used to teachers being much ruder at conferences, talking, knitting, and even grading papers throughout a presentation.
It was interesting to me that during lunch, nobody even suggested not going back for the afternoon session. If I had been with a group of teachers, I know someone would have said that we were wasting our time and should skip the afternoon. Looking at it from an administrator’s perspective, I felt like they saw themselves as fulfilling a professional development requirement of some sort. I was impressed that they took it so seriously. Maybe some of them really hadn’t read Fullan and didn’t want to admit it to the others. At least they all came away with some good jokes for their own faculty and PTA meetings.
I suppose that I had my expectations set too high for the day. I consider it a privilege to hear authors I have read and whom I respect. I felt that my time was not wasted, even though I recognized most of what Fullan said from two graduate courses I have taken at the University of Illinois. The opportunity to observe a group of administrators made it an interesting day. I was very interested in how they interacted with each other, what they talked about, and their obvious feeling of camaraderie.
A lot of what they said had to do with what was going on in the district, but I noticed that they were kind of careful not to say anything that was critical of the district or the school board or its policies. I think the presence of the assistant superintendent kept them from being very open and candid in their discussion. Of course, I have to remember that my being there also had an effect. They seemed to accept me, some went out of their way to be friendly. They all knew why I was there, but nobody mentioned it or asked me about how I was doing in the clinical experience course. I didn’t feel like an outsider, but maybe I really was. I guess I was more of a guest from their perspective, one who should see them at their best behavior.
Maybe administrators have to be careful always to have people see them at their best behavior as a part of their public image as a professional educator. Maybe it takes some acting ability to be a successful administrator. I wonder how they would have acted at lunch if the assistant superintendent and I had not been there.
Ael revised 2/15/02