Journaling to a Better Me

4 Mar 2023 6:07 PM | Paige Jennings (Administrator)

By; Tanya Over 

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from situations. Being a teacher of middle school students for twenty years, I notice certain trends that have been happening. I notice that the neediness, anxiety, stress, and inability to deal with change or friendship drama is on the rise. Students need to learn to adapt and cope in all of these situations. A number of factors contribute to how well people adapt in these situations. The ways in which individuals view and engage with the world and specific coping strategies are the focus of Journaling to a Better Me.

I decided to develop something that could help students grow in finding out who they are and who they want to be. This journal is something that will give them skills for dealing with everyday life and options of things to try if something does not go their way. 

Based on data from my school’s counseling office and administration, conflict resolution is the number one problem. A quick survey found out that my students, a class of 26, on a scale of 1-5, one low and 5 high, 65% rate their anxiety as 5, 4 or 3.  This leads me to believe that they are quite anxious or they don’t know strategies for helping to ease their anxiety. I also found out 77% find themselves confident in dealing with conflicts with friends. This information contradicts what the administration and counseling are reporting that the majority of the visits to their offices are dealing with conflict management. I am intrigued to dive deeper into this area with the journaling. 65% do not feel they are able to bounce back from difficult situations. As expected, 61% had not journaled before. 

I began with a note home for the optional purchase of a bullet journal. If they cannot get a bullet journal, these lessons are adaptable with a spiral notebook or Notability, an iPad app. I find when the students begin working on their journals, when they pick up the pencil or marker it calms them. They work quietly and intently. The “vibe,” as my daughter says, is happy and relaxed. As they will find later on, journaling is also a self-care technique that many have not accessed previously.

In the beginning, I had about 33% of my students with bullet journals. Now, a month in, 90% of my kids have bullet journals. I have given away 24 journals, some to students not even in my class who want to join us. I am finding the kids are loving the lessons and drawing. Most are off screens for 30 minutes. They are happy in the class and giving compliments to each other about creativity and their pages. I see many asking to work in journals when they have finished classwork. 

Currently, we are working on Who Are You? Chapter.  They are learning about themselves and completing  activities to build connections with others. I am hearing comments like “Wait. You too?” “ I did not know that about you.” We are tracking how we are confident each day based on the 7 ways to build confidence that I developed. We are discussing which is the hardest and which is the easiest way to build confidence. They have even corrected me by saying, “Mrs. Over, is that positive self talk? How can you change that to use yet or and ?” Yet/and are words we have added to our vocabulary to build confidence. For example: I did not do well on the math homework AND I have asked for help to gain better understanding.  It is exciting to see them use the skills outside of the lesson time.

Our next step is to look in detail about what they are good at and how they can develop those skills even further. We will make a tracker for that as well. 

Lastly, we will dive  more deeply into what we can control, options of what to do when we can not, and to start tracking our choices in daily situations. We will be looking at methods of self care and what is the difference between anxiety and stress. 

Throughout this unit, I also have been introducing optional pages for them to design. Some pages they have chosen to create are migraine trackers, sleep trackers  and phone usage trackers. Some are combining all sorts of things for them to work on in a monthly tracker.

While I do not grade the pages, I do look over them to see if they have been attempted. We do activities on Tuesday and Thursday but many work on their book on the other days as well. 

This is their journey to discover and better themselves.

My hope for this project is to help students realize for themselves what positive attributes they have, how to build on them, and what to do when things don’t go their way. Let’s face it, sometimes we all have bad days….even in Australia.

For further information or questions please email: 

Tanya Over has taught for twenty years, mostly middle school math and fourteen years at Erie Middle. As a wife, mother, daughter and teacher, she is continually working on developing good self-care.

Colorado Association of Middle Level Education


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