In my early years of teaching I had a very demanding class with children with varied needs. I found it difficult to give them the attention they needed and wanted to find a way to meet their needs. Short of stopping time I just couldn’t find more time in the day to stop and listen to everyone – I needed a solution fast. I came up with the idea of hotline diaries which the children owned and decorated how they wanted. I explained that these were their hotline to me as it was difficult during a day to find time to listen to everyone and I didn’t want to miss out any important things. The children loved this idea and quickly designed their diaries.
The rule was that the diaries were kept in a box on my desk and were private between them and myself. I set aside ten minutes, usually after lunch, to let the children write in their diaries. The children responded and soon were letting me know about problems or concerns and I was able to respond very quickly to situations. A child might tell me that someone was annoying them in the group and I could adjust seating arrangements without it becoming a huge issue. Some children just needed to say hello and touch base but others maybe needed supported more if they were experiencing difficulties in their life.
At first it was a novelty but I found that it settled down quickly and that the children who needed to used them. I always ensured that there was a time in the day where everyone had access to their diary and if there were no concerns they might tell me some news about what they were doing outside school. The children loved reading my replies and I remember one little boy in particular, who was going through difficult circumstances at home, who used his diary many times throughout the day almost as a comforter. It was good to know that the hotline diary really helped him through this difficult period in his life.