Monday, December 27, 2010

Focusing on the Journey

Greg Anderson once said, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” I recently came to an end of a year and a half long journey in writing my first book for Stenhouse Publishers. As I am spending some of my holiday break finishing up some of the last touches, I have had many friends and colleagues remark about how relieved I must be to finally have finished. I have to admit that a part of me is finding a bit of a relief. However, I have found that I am also a bit sad to see this journey come to an end. Although there were times where I felt I would never be able to complete this enormous task of authoring an entire book, while teaching full time, and maintaining our family life, I found joy in reflecting upon my practice and putting it into words. It was joyful for me to make a new discovery about myself as an educator and about why something works with my unique learners.

As I pondered upon that self-discovery, I  moved my reflection towards my students and their learning journey. I realize that for many of us we only get to be a guide for part of their journey. Are we spending time helping them to find joy in their accomplishments, no matter how small they may be? Or are we sometimes so caught up in the all of the required paperwork that we lose sight of the daily growth each of our students is making?

One practice that I've used for a couple of years is having each of my students set individual writing/communicating goals. We write constantly; some is traditional paper-pencil writing; some is done digitally. I set up a basic table in Microsoft Word and when I spend time conferencing with my students. I let them look at a current piece of writing and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.  Each young author then sets an individual goal to work on in their writing, across content-areas, formal or informal. I love when we spend time conferencing and they joyfully discover that they have grown and reached their goals. They are so eager to set a new goal.

In the interest of helping my students find more joy along their journey, I plan on having them spend their first few minutes in reflecting upon where they've been, where they are, and where they want to be when our portion of their learning journey is completed. It sounds like a joyful way to begin the second half of our school year together, don't you think?

Here are some other sites about the importance of having students set their own goals:


  1. Welcome to the world of blogging, Julie! I love your approach to writing, and how you not only focus on process, but have them connect each piece they're writing to prior work. In my own experience as a writer, I learned a great deal about how a piece of writing is a living organism, and in some ways it's never "done". If students can learn that writing is about the thought process and the communication of ideas, not about the paper and ink, I think that a lot of the intimidation will evaporate and kids will love doing it.

  2. Everything I read says something like only 3% of grownups set goals, and what a shame. Instilling this practice is huge. It makes the journey a whole lot more fun at any age.