Clearly, I once again chose a blog as the platform for my reading log. In fact, I simply continued posting to my original blog, so I am left with a comprehensive catalog of my responses to numerous articles and readings spanning two different semesters. The purpose of this reading log is primarily to aid in my understanding of the class readings through demanding that I engage in rigorous thought, explanation, and investigation. In that respect, the ten most recent posts, beginning with “Teacher Anxiety,” are similar to the preceding ones. However, because I was serving an internship and actually teaching classes this semester, several of my posts incorporate classroom experience that relates to ideas or strategies covered in the reading. The most recent portion of the reading log consists of ten entries: three dealing with Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion, three treating Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System, and four addressing concepts from other articles. The posts range in length from 450 to nearly 800 words. While I strive to remain concise as a rule, I often found myself wanting to continue writing because connections between ideas or applications of methodologies were popping up in my mind.
As I look back, it is clear that four different components contributed to the overall quality of my entries. First, rather than attempting to address an article or section of reading in broad terms, I often select an intriguing concept to investigate more deeply or track throughout the reading. For instance, in “Putting Together Occupation,” I track how Burke’s notion of occupation informs the other three components of good teaching that he identifies. In “Absorbing Writing,” I investigate more deeply how the notion of classical learning might be applied to the teaching of writing.
Second, instead of sticking strictly to the reading I am dealing with, I allow myself to make connections between texts that might raise more questions or clarify important points. A good example of that strategy is in the post “Bridging the Gap Between Skills and Knowledge,” an entry that deals mainly with the conclusion of Ravitch’s book, but incorporates ideas from Elliot Eisner’s work that seem particularly apposite. In doing so, I come to a more complete understanding of each author than I would have by focusing on them separately.
Next, I take what I learn or discover in the reading and discuss it in terms of personal experience. “Novel Idea” is illustrative of that approach. Reading Burke’s suggestions and strategies for teaching novels directly related to some firsthand experience, and I took the opportunity to include some personal reflection in my response to that particular reading.
Finally, I did a little bit of stylistic experimentation this semester, and I think it helped to freshen some of the posts and avoid a monotonous tone. My entry, “Grasping for an Anchor,” experiments with using a short section of narrative writing to introduce the more traditional analytical writing that follows, and “It’s a Numbers Game” featured a Bradbury epigraph that struck me as particularly relevant to the subject matter. Admittedly, approaching some of the entries in this way was informed by personal preference, but I feel that the net impact for the reader is a positive one.
While such experimentation was a stylistic trend, I feel the content of my writing is influenced by whatever kinds of reading-based connections I can make. I think that trend is due to the fact that I tend to understand concepts better when I think about them in a variety of contexts. Not only does it help me to understand ideas more clearly, but it also leads to an application-based approach to what I am studying. That is, instead of thinking about a concept in isolation, I am eager to explore how it relates to my experience in the field or other class readings.
I feel the work in this log connected well with the other assignments in the course. Though none of my entries deals directly with such connections, I used the log writing as a place to think through many of the ideas I had for other class assignments. The writing I did about the various Burke chapters definitely helped to lead me to ideas that I ultimately included in my semester plan. While the log entries themselves need to have a polished feel in their finished form, the process by which they are created is valuable in itself for the ideas it produces. Because of going back and reading more closely, certain activities or strategies that went unnoticed before might jump out as useful in my semester plan. Even though a particular activity was not mentioned in my post, the very act of creating the post led to its discovery.
Because of those kinds of occurrences—surprising and useful discoveries—the reading log indeed has plenty of merit. Additionally, the reading log provides a good mix of focus and freedom. While the assignment offers guidelines as to how many posts are expected for each text, it does not ever stipulate a specific topic or concept that needs to be addressed. I like having the liberty to pursue anything that interests me. It is often more productive and rewarding to explore ideas that are either relevant to personal experiences or simply intellectually stimulating. The only suggestion I would make is to incorporate somehow the writing we are all doing in our logs with class discussion. I know we have access to nearly all of our classmates’ logs, but it could prove productive to set aside some class time where we raise issues we’ve been writing about.