"March 30: Worms cannot walk upside down" (Cronin, 2003, p. 5).
"May 14 1800 [Wednesday]. [...] My heart was so full that I could hardly speak to W when I gave him a farewell kiss" (Wordsworth, 2006, p. 392).
As I look at the similarities between the two journals, I cannot help but consider the importance of learning to write personal journals, as well as learning to read personal journals. Tompkins says that in personal journals, students “write about topics that they choose themselves” (Tompkins, 2012, p. 109). The interesting thing is that whether I am reading a fictional story about a worm’s diary, or a non-fiction piece by Dorothy Wordsworth, I am gaining the same kinds of information. I am reading things that someone is saying simply because of the fact that they wish to say it. To me, personal journals are not supposed to be about the specifics included within each entry. There is not supposed to be any kind of requirement that comes along with this kind of writing. Tompkins says that personal journals should be used for fluency, and I could not agree more. If it is called a personal journal, then that is what it should be: personal. No one should scrutinize someone else’s personal writing on the basis that it is not “interesting,” as it will only discourage students from trying. And honestly, isn’t this what teachers are fighting for? Students need to take risks, just as I need to learn how to take risks as a teacher.
However, what I find interesting, at least with Wordsworth’s journal, is the fact that she never knew her writing would be scrutinized under a microscope. Her writing was an unassigned journal, simply for the sake of keeping track of emotions, experiences, and history. The way that I read her journals for school, analyzing her natural references, and attempting to comprehend her use of language as a means to create underlying meanings, is almost guaranteed not the way that she intended the journals to be looked at. This causes me to wonder, how would her journaling have altered, had she known that large groups of high school students, undergraduate students, graduate students, etc. would analyze her writing? I think about what would happen if this was the case for me, and I most certainly think that I would censor my writing more. I would most likely look back over my work, maybe write in pencil (for mistakes), and treat each entry as a “work of art.” Of course, this is just what I am trying to avoid in writing these blog entries. (Although, I still have difficulty not going back through my entry to make sure that it sounds “perfect,” whatever that means.) Wordsworth most likely would have had extreme difficulty handing over her journals, knowing that she writes such heartfelt things in them, including the quote mentioned at the beginning of this entry. Created in the 1800s, discussion of emotions was not very common. It is my assumption that Wordsworth would have been mortified to learn that others knew of her “full heart.” This being said, I find it important to mention, also, the fact that Wordsworth’s writing may help older students recognize the importance of including emotions within their writing. Dorothy Wordsworth’s writing is compelling, despite the fact that she wrote it over 200 years ago. While engaging students in this kind of journal reading, they are not only developing a new sense of personal journal writing, but also developing an understanding for Romanticism and its writing styles.
The Diary of a Worm follows a similar pattern with Wordsworth’s journals, but for younger students. When I look at Cronin’s fictional story, I think of how wonderful it is as an introduction to personal journaling for younger elementary age students. The Diary of a Worm is fairly straight-forward, as the worm says anything he deals with. He tells his journal that he eats his homework, despite the fact that it may have been a bit embarrassing. I see this as an excellent representation of work that is not held back, so as to encourage students to write the same. The worm’s entries are short, but considering the amount of writing a Kindergarten student or a first grade student may use, it is perfect. Cronin’s worm diary uses unique words each day, many that may be new to students; this, in turn, encourages students to utilize new words within their own journaling and increase their fluency.
Looking at the benefits of reading personal journals, as well as writing them, I can hardly understand why any teacher would choose not to utilize them within the classroom. I think back to some of my observation and student teaching placements, and I cannot help but wonder what drive the students would have to succeed if they were able to talk about what they wanted to talk about. I am a firm believer that students have quite a lot to say, often more than any teacher has to say, and in the future, I need to make sure I give them a chance to say it.