Dear Diary

My recent stint filling in as a school psychologist in a maternity-leave position was unique to me for a few reasons.  Not only was it my first “real world” exposure to working in the field (internship notwithstanding), but I was also working within a finite time period.  This job had a “sell-by” date on it, and even if I hadn’t been offered my new full-time position, my time as a psychologist at this particular school would have ended when the woman I was filling in for returned in February.

It’s been a long time since I had a job like that, and if I’m honest, yes, I do think I perceived the position differently than if it was a permanent job.  I don’t mean to say that I slacked off or didn’t care; rather, I think the limited time frame made me a little more aware of my thoughts and reactions to the job on a daily basis.

With this in mind, I decided to document my thoughts at the end of each day a la Doogie Howser.   To do this, I used Quillpill, a Twitter-like microblogging service.   While there are many similarities between the two services, Quillpill is promoted primarily as a story-telling, rather than IM-ish, service.  From their “About” page:

Quillpill supplies you the writer, diary keeper, poet, or reader with access to a unique writing tool for mobile and web. The mobile web offers you a much more book-like experience than even a laptop can, as the mobile phone is the first web-able device that is as portable, accessible, and personal as a paperback novel or your favorite journal. The best part is: You already own it and carry it with you!

There is a web interface, but more often than not, I found myself using the mobile interface to input my daily observations on my Palm Centro phone as I walked to and from student observations, meetings, or even in the car (passenger, natch) or on the couch at home (iPhone users have their own special interface).  Whenever the ideas struck, I was able to reach into my pocket and record.  The 140 character limit also forced me to keep my writing succinct, not a trait for which I’m known.  An unfortunate by-product of such brevity is that without context, entries don’t always come across as intended, but that’s not necessarily a problem if you’re just writing for yourself.

I’m glad I did this because I (and now, you) can look back at my daily thoughts (I think I missed fewer than 10 school days between 4 Sept and 23 Dec 2008).  I’ve made only minor edits for anonymity and clarity (remember what I said about context before you judge me, please!). For those of you who just want the Cliff’s Notes rundown, here are my top 5 takeaways:

  • I hated being new at something again
  • Bureaucracy and red tape were endlessly frustrating, and I sometimes felt powerless to do what I thought would help
  • Parents appreciated me & my efforts much more than I thought they would
  • I observed some double standards in terms of how some teachers conduct themselves & what they expect from their students
  • I really enjoyed being a vocal advocate for kids who needed one

Overall, it was a very positive experience, and I’m grateful for being offered the opportunity to get my feet wet in an environment in which I was familiar and comfortable.  I’ll be starting up in a brand new position in a brand new (to me) school on Monday, 5 Jan, and I’ll absolutely use the lessons learned in this temporary position to guide me as I establish myself in a new branch of my career in education.


  • I’m reading your post thinking quillpill sounds familiar. Yeah, really familiar because I signed up for the service and forgot about it. How sad is that?! I just might have too much on my plate. I will try this out…one day.

    Good luck on the new branch of your career!

  • Good luck on Monday…I worked with quite a few school “shrinks” while I was a teacher and the most important thing they did for their “kids” was be an advocate even when teachers were using their double standards or do as I say, not as I do approach to leadership.

    Be an advocate, but also know when to let it go, you will not win all the battles and the ones you loose will eat you alive if you can’t let it go. So remember to look back at your diary and use it, you will be surprised how often the same issue will crop up only with a different face.

    Good Luck


    Harold Shaw’s last blog post..Our 210th variation on the theme, "Thank you for using FeedBurner."

  • Damian,

    Thank you for sharing your thinking on Quillpill (I’ll have to check into the site). Do you think this is something you’ll continue in the future?

    Good luck in your new school. I’m sure you’ll continue to do great things for the students.

    Jackie Ballarini’s last blog post..New Math Blog

  • Thanks for the good luck wishes, everyone!

    @a. I actually signed up for Quillpill ages ago and, like you, forgot all about it b/c I just never had a use for it. Wasn’t til I considered using Twitter for this reflection that I remembered QP and thought it might be a better fit.

    @Harold Knowing when to let go will definitely be difficult (it’s always been a weakness of mine), but I’ve been working on it.

    @Jackie I’ve been debating that. I probably won’t want to do it daily anymore, but any more than a day’s worth of reflection will probably be too much for the 140-and-under format. I was very regimented with this b/c I knew it was temporary, but maybe I’ll continue the format on a 2-3x/week basis.

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