A Mirror of My Feelings
Beate Walter and Jessica Schöneberg, Germany
My diary project: A mirror of my feelings, by Jessica Schöneberg
How delightful to see that Juliane's text on her relationship with the English language was published in the recent issue of HLT. It's so good to see for the students themselves that what they have been thinking about is worth sharing and will be appreciated by a wider community. Thank you very much for considering us worthy of inclusion.
At the same time I was wondering if the text attached might equally find favour. This time, however, the assignment was different and was also set in a different class.
For my advanced academic writing class at Erfurt University I challenged the students to keep a diary in English. The task was to attempt to write about 2-3 A4 size pages at least 5 times a week using free writing, i.e. allowing the thoughts that come to mind to find their way out and be put down on paper, creating a stream of consciousness. No editing is required and I also told them I would not ask them to show it to anyone, certainly not to the teacher as this assignment would bring about a rather personal reflection. However, I did not put any pressure on the students and assured them that it was ok to write whenever they felt comfortable and that the set number of pages was not cut in stone. Occasionally, I would enquire about the progress they had made on this task.
In order to demonstrate that this was indeed a manageable assignment and that I would not ask something of them that I myself might find irritating, boring or overwhelming I brought in my own diary (the same requirements: 3 pages every day for 10 weeks) to show them the pages that I had written and mentioned the therapeutic effects this task had had on me.
The idea was taken from Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self and adapted slightly to serve the purposes of the course and my teaching objectives. My idea was to allow the students extra opportunity for engaging with the English language in a non-threatening way, offering a meaningful task in the context of a writing class and allowing them to see how getting all the clutter out of their head would free their mind to think creatively about their term paper projects. Any other benefits beyond these objectives would be generated by the magic of the task and cannot be credited to my teaching abilities. On the contrary, I am amazed at what the students have come up with!
Jessica decided to reflect in writing on the diary project and produced this beautiful text that is attached. While it is her own take on the task it does mirror the experiences of the other students in the class as well as my own. That's why I thought it might be interesting for you and maybe the readers of HLT magazine.
I would appreciate your opinion on it and am very happy to provide any further information that you might need.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
When I was a child I started to keep a weekly diary to reflect on my thoughts and feelings. At first I noted down whatever came to my mind, but soon writing became a ritual in which I carefully described my daily experiences. When I read those diaries now, I laugh at some of my former opinions but also enjoy the detailed descriptions of events and people I had almost forgotten.
This semester it is our task to write an English diary in which we are supposed to put down what we think as a sequence of impressions rather than as a structured analysis. I enjoy working on this assignment since it gives me the opportunity not only to reflect my own feelings and experiences, but also to leave real life behind and dive into a fantasy world instead. I usually write my diary entries in the evening when I have the time to recreate my whole day in words or simply let my thoughts run wild.
During the last weeks I have noticed that the mood I am in while writing is reflected in the text. Unfortunately, my entries are dominated by problems such as time management or structuring the work I have to do. Nevertheless, in most cases, this does not end in a pessimistic view. After only a few days of writing I encountered a really fascinating phenomenon – the great relief after having written down my problems. Sometimes describing them in detail even helps to arrive at a solution. Besides that, I have the impression that the diary project serves as a good means for structuring my ideas for the term paper I have to write and becoming aware of the issues I really want to deal with.
Even though the majority of my entries are about themes concerning university, I also write about my everyday life away from my studies. Sometimes my diary entries seem like a parody of my life, and I enjoy re-reading them in a quiet moment.
Another aspect which is worth mentioning is the fact that writing my diary entries often helps me to start thinking in English, and thus I often compose them, for example, before preparing a presentation in English or writing a reflection.
All in all, writing my diary entries does not feel like a duty to me, but rather like something which helps me to understand myself better. My only problem is the fact that it is very time-consuming and sometimes I hardly find the time to keep up with it. Fortunately, I have found a solution to this problem: On the days when I am too busy with my other university assignments, I write several short paragraphs during the day instead of one long entry or limit the number of pages to one and a half, continuing the next day.