Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wreck this Journal

Due to the nature of my teaching position, I come across a lot of students with a fear of failure, a dysfunctional attraction to perfection and characteristics of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Some are middle/high school girls with depression, very low self-worth and an eating disorder, while others might be middle/high school boys with heightened anger and asperger/autistic characteristics. And some are any combination.

Every child comes with a complex case. There is no template.

I continue to develop a wide variety of projects that attempt to meet their very complex needs. Here is one of the projects I have had some success with for students who are paralyzed by their pursuit of perfection.

I purchase Keri Smith's Wreck this Journal for my students and encourage them to destroy it. While you might think all children would love to be given permission to decimate a book, you would be surprised how many children find this task to be at best tedious and at worst torture.

Here are some of things we talk about:
  • Perfection is not motivating. Perfection is paralyzing.
  • Some of the best things in life can't be planned. In fact, sometimes the best things in life are mistakes that we make the most of.
  • Mistakes are our friends.
  • If you're not making mistakes, you're not living.
  • Mistakes are not only ok, they are necessary if learning and success is to take place.
  • Society hides our mistakes and failures but flaunts successes. This can be deceiving. 
  • The only way to make your journal unique is to wreck it.
Here is what one of my students had to say about her experience with this project:
I found the "Wreck This Journal" project incredibly challenging and difficult. To push myself to deface any sort of material (let alone a book) felt like a death wish. It was a tedious task at first; being told to tear out a page or doodle on the front cover.. but as the project moved forward I was able to let go and embrace the experience... I think spending time on this project has given me a new outlook on life, and made me realize that striving for perfection is an unrealistic and costly goal. 


  1. Nice job Joe. I like hearing about what you do in your classroom. Your actions speak very loudly when accompanied by your thoughts and philosophies. One of the most difficult things I experience while reading your blog is how some of your posts feel like you are complaining and then that's it. I like when you provide real examples of your work for others to use in their classrooms as well. I think most of your subscribers agree with you. They just need to know how to proceed with ways to make it better.

  2. This prompted me to go take a look at my Wreck This Journal from last year. My students felt the same way and were shocked when I gave them their copies. They all seemed to look around to see if the other students were participating. I love the idea! I'm so tired of hearing that Failure is Not an Option

  3. Joe - I just came across your blog and this post. I am interested in using Wreck this Journal with my students - 6th graders. How did you go about doing your activity? Did each kid have their own copy? Did they use a separate notebook? Please expand on the lesson/project. Thanks!

    Justin Greene

  4. This is amazing and i wish some teachers did this when i was in school! Im going to be wrecking my own journal soon :)


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