Monthly Archives: August 2013

Book Birthdays! An Angel Earns Her Wings

DGWHead3I love book birthdays!

There’s so much hope. So much excitement. So much promise.

People loved Dead Girl Walking so much it’s kind of worrisome to follow the book up with the second installment in the series. I hope readers agree that I’ve done Sharlene justice. NEW: My Mary Beth Lee books are available on Amazon, Nook and Smashwords! Paperbacks coming soon.

School WITH STUDENTS starts today. As always I’m excited.

I’m looking forward to a year of writing great books, reading great books and sharing lots of education thoughts!

 

 

The All-American

In 2007 the Rider yearbook earned All-American status.

It was an amazing year, and I had amazing editors. One of the editors joined the local university yearbook staff. Yearbook at the university was done out of an area other than Mass Comm, and it was pretty much a disaster. Ultimately, the university decided to move the book online only. Before long my former editor was working alone on the project. No one cared about the online yearbook. I agreed with her when she said an online yearbook isn’t really a yearbook at all. Since then I’ve seen years go by with a great kid or two working on the product called a yearbook, and I’ve seen them begging for help, and I’ve seen everyone shaking their heads and walking away. Because still…no one cares. An online supplement is a great idea. But it’s NOT a yearbook.

Fortunately our admins see the value in the book, not only for the book itself but also for the entire journalism program. You look at quality high schools, and they have quality student journalism programs. They build strong school cultures where students take pride in their campus. They know the fight song and alma mater. Like one yearbook adviser said this summer, “You get the kid to love their school, and they’ll try a lot harder on the test.” She was right. Strong journalism programs are part of the quality school equation.

This is the last of my  journalism adviser posts. I enjoyed the week sharing my thoughts on my class and what we do. I’ll definitely post about the J-Class again, but it won’t be constant. :)#

MY NEW BOOK COMES OUT TOMORROW!!!!!

(Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books. There’s a link to the registration on the right hand side of the page. No spam, I promise! No more than 12 newsletters a year.)

DGWHead3

Awesome #Newsroom = #Education Rockstar

Today I was looking through the district’s website making sure what we’re doing in the newsroom lines up with the goals set forward by our upper admin and school board. I knew what I believed about my program, but I learned in leadership cohort, which I did twice–once as a participant, once as the  teacher leader–that your personal beliefs aren’t worth much in real educational discussions if they can’t be backed up with data.

What I found thrilled me! If you’re a J-teacher or if you’ve ever been a J-student, I bet you’ll agree.

Goal 1: Develop a culture of continuous improvement and accountability that fosters student success.

Objective A deals with STAAR. I’m not a fan of testing when it alone drives curriculum, but I tutored kids who failed the writing test this year and learned I actually like the STAAR writing test. I’m not sure about its grading, but the test itself is solid. Students have to learn several forms of writing, so no form is left out for years and years. At the heart of all quality student media is story. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an in-depth investigative piece on the average experience level of teachers in your district this year compared to five years ago and how those results affect student performance OR writing twelve full captions for a yearbook layout OR writing a teaser for a broadcast piece on teachers carrying weapons OR writing your intro and close for your advertising sales pitch. The newsroom’s first order of business is quality writing of ALL types. Nice.

Objective D is the best, though: Identify effective applications of instructional technology and develop a plan for acquisition, training and implementation. I realize the plan is talking about for teachers, but honestly, the kids are the ones who need to be learning true technology integration NOT just PowerPoint and Word. The newsroom kids learn the ins and outs of the entire Adobe Publishing Suite. Our yearbook rep spends hours training students. We go to camps. We study trends. My kids can earn freelance design money right away. They earn scholarships for their work. They get real world jobs right out of high school. And they are accepted to their collegiate programs where they can earn money for the work they do.

Goal 2: Produce students that are globally competitive. B and C deal with CTE. While we are definitely a tech heavy program, yearbook and newspaper don’t qualify as CTE classes. That’s a state issue I find weird, but I can’t fight that battle. D says the district strives to ensure a seamless transition for graduates pursuing post-secondary education. Most college professors are vocal about the fact that students are leaving high school ready for a test but not for college, so this is an absolute must for the district. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of data showing Journalism Kids Do Better.

The final goal on our strategic plan deals with fiscal responsibility. The fiscal part of the newsroom can be the most challenging and the most rewarding. We are constantly monitoring our numbers. Checking to see if we’re on par to sell the number of books we sold last year. Developing marketing plans and advertising goals. Today I met with my editorial board and rep, and we looked through the past couple year’s trends, projected sales, started a marketing plant to meet that sales goal and fine-tuned our advertising goals. When school starts every student in the program will learn about business plans, marketing plans, professional social media use and how to sell advertising space in a student produced, student led product. We do all this because we get a $0 budget, so the only way we can produce the books and papers we do is to develop these plans. It’s stressful, but it’s also the ONLY PLACE on campus students learn these skills with real world application. Two years ago at the end of my former marketing manager’s freshman year at Tech, she beat out people with marketing and advertising degrees for a paid internship with a major non-profit. They were blown away by her marketing and sales portfolio. She attended summer camp offered by the yearbook company two years in a row and developed an amazing plan. She won awards with the plan. She worked the plan, and it paid off for me and the Rider program, but more importantly, for her.

I love that after all these years–I started teaching in 94, started yearbook in 98–I can see the evidence of a quality program in so many former students. I love that the yearbook companies help yearbook and newspaper stay on the cutting edge as far as software, design trends and curriculum go. I love that I still learn something new every year AND that what we do changes…just like in the real world.

I love that the J-programs line up perfectly with the District Strategic Plan 2012-2017, and I’m looking forward to sharing that message.

District #Journalism Staff Development

MAN, did we have a day.

We have a new to journalism teacher in the district. He’s an amazing writer, but he’s never been on a staff of any sort before. He’s teaching 1 YB, 1 NP, 1 J1 and 4 12th grade English classes.

Whew. That’s a tough schedule.

THANK GOODNESS we have our yearbook rep to help along the way.

We started our day by making sure he knew how important a quality yearbook is to the culture of a school. How it’s the one thing that lasts forever. (See yesterday’s post.) I read him my blog and warned him that I’m a bit of an online narcissist. He laughed, but I think that’s because I scared him.

I told him not to worry. He doesn’t HAVE to carry Duck tape or batteries, and it’ll probably take a few years before the kids accidentally call him dad.

We set up his ladder (It took 4 times because he needed to cut his book by several signatures—GOD I HATE MATH!!!!) and made sure he understood fiscal responsibility with yearbook and why that’s important (MORE MATH!!!!!). I don’t think he hates math, though because he didn’t run screaming from the room.

Our second year adviser at the other high school helped us decide which pages of his school’s book should be cut.

The junior high adviser there (one of my former students), helped too.

I promised him this would be fun once he learned. He’s a writer. And a musician. Super creative. Super smart. Hel-lo. He’s made for advising. If we can get him through this first year.

And we will. Because we work together in this district.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Dear Brother!

Dear brother dear,

Oh me, oh my.

Is this a birthday day I spy?

Why yes, why yes, why yes it is.

It’s time for the middle aged quiz.

🙂

Okay, just joking. No quiz. BUT there are some truths. One of which is OUCH MY KNEE hurts and how the heck did pulling a suitcase hurt my back?!? lol!!!

Don’t worry. As my friend said today, we’re holding at 35. HAPPY BIRTHDAY and I love you!

*Remember that time when we were little in Minnesota when you begged me to crawl under the bed and grab your Charlie Bear, and then you jumped on the bed and slammed my chin into the floor? That still hurts. j/k

 

 

 

J-Teacher and Proud of It

21010_84342_0(There’s a request for comments at the end of this. PLEASE comment!)

I love my job. It’s stressful, crazy, political, time intensive. It’s teacher, counselor, motivational speaker, cheerleader, project manager, classroom facilitator, photographer-photography teacher-camera man, advertising manager, marketing director, technology guru, technology support, Adobe Genius, Apple aficionado, sound checker, light checker, mic checker, school supply-battery-Duck tape-Sharpie-supplier, Mom  all rolled in to one.

I’m sure I left something out.

But still,  love my job. In spite of 12-15 hour days, in spite of summer months spent at camps without being paid for the time, in spite of meals missed and mad momma phone calls and a $0 budget, I love my job. To me it’s the best job in the world.

Here’s why:

Yearbook and newspaper and AV are outcome-based products, produced collaboratively by students for students using project management, high tech, and problem solving skills. Students leave journalism programs strong writers with an eye for design and the ability to use professional programs that get them real world jobs right out of high school and paying jobs on college/university staffs. They know how to work in chaos–probably the most underrated skill learned in the newsroom. Remember dorms? Me, too. If you can’t concentrate on the work in front of you even though there’s a tequila line outside your door, you’re in trouble.

Our kids learn note-taking skills like one other. They learn to discern the important stuff and read between the lines and question authority RESPECTFULLY. They learn ethics and editing and how to be on a crazy-insane-OhMiGodI’mGoingToDIE Deadline and survive SUCCESSFULLY…even if it’s done at the very last second.

Our kids learn how to manage commercial budgets and sell an invaluable product to a community to make that budget happen.

Our kids learn how to produce quality products in 45 minute classes and time spent after school while learning Elvish or Spanish or Sonic-ese on the side. And they learn the difference between analysis and news, unlike most people today.

Media literacy problems? Not with J-kids.

Our yearbook kids produce the ONE thing that stays with the school forever. When anthropologists look at what teenagers were like in 2013, they’ll look at yearbooks because they last forever. Technology can’t compete. DVDs are almost passe, and my kids don’t even know how to use the boom box in my classroom, but they can go to that 1962 Rider yearbook, and they totally know what to do. THEY LOVE THAT BOOK. It’s the first Rider book and it tells the Rider story. It’s the only thing that can.

Our newspaper and A/V kids serve as the voice of the students body, the defenders of the constitution. When I tell my kids that, they think I’m kind of crazy until we start talking about it, and they realize how absolutely essential they are to a quality school environment.

J-classes are some of the most important classes on a campus. It’s why when you look at the 21st Century Classroom description, you can line it up next to a J-class and check, check, check…all the way down the list. We are cutting edge. We are forward thinking. We are the 21st Century Classroom, which is funny since I’ve been in the high school newsroom since I was 15…back in the day of cut and paste and lightboards and headline counts from hell. But you know what? Back then we were cutting edge 1980s technology. (We even had a computer that worked with something other than C:    )

That’s the nature of high school journalism, and it’s why quality schools have quality high school J-programs.

Yep. I love my job. And I’ll fight for it forever.

If you were on your high school J-staff (yearbook, newspaper, broadcast), tell me how it impacted your life in a positive way whether you’re in the industry or not OR drop me a line at marybeth AT marybethlee DOT com. I’d love to be able to show people why my classes matter.

THANKS!

The Best Kind of Phone Call

Dead Girl Walking

One of my Georgia nieces called last night. She made her yearbook staff, so I thought that’s why she was calling. Nope. She called to tell me she LOVED Dead Girl Walking. That it was worth the 23 hours she spent reading it. 🙂

She thought Sharlene was scary at first because she was dead and all, and she thought it was funny that Sharlene was such a bad guardian angel when she started. She LOVED Addison. She was super excited to hear that Addison will be back in book 4. And I sent her a sneak preview of book 2 that releases Aug. 25.

 

I better get busy on book 3’s edits. She’s ready to read it now!

Coolest phone call ever. 🙂

 

 

 

Back to School 2013-2014

TpT BTS Sale

I’m sad I won’t get to work on this until Thursday.

I’m a Guest Today!

It’s no secret I like to blog. 🙂 I’ve done guest blog posts before, but never one like this. Jodi Linton is one of my former students, and I’m SO proud of her writing success. Her debut novel releases with Entangled Suspense Summer 2014.

I’d love to see some contest entries on my guest post! Check it out here. #

Several of my Mary Beth Lee and Liz Lee titles are on sale for 99 cents until next Saturday. It’s my back-to-school sale. 🙂

Next Sunday my Mary Beth Lee books will be available at most eBook retailers.  Right now, they’re available on Amazon. Check them out here.

Dear Summer 2013 #MyWANA

Ross Castle, Killarney IrelandI loved you. You were a life-changing summer.

I started in Ireland, the most beautiful place on earth, ended at the computer writing and designing book covers and formatting books so everyone has access to the Mary Beth Lee and Liz Lee books, not just kindle owners.

I survived the summer cold from hell, discovered Zeal, spent July in yearbook camps, said goodbye to a fellow J-adviser who’s retiring after 31 years in the district.

I found a new favorite author: Sarah MacLean <3, finished Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and reread the SEP books I love so much.

I re-embraced Pilates since it helps with the pain caused by the purse and fall-inflicted shoulder injury AND I learned the chiropractor hurts like heck, but makes the pain better eventually.

I wrote and wrote and wrote some more and edited and edited and edited some more and had a blast with Mom and Dad and learned to play dominoes with an ancient set of the game that had been in the bottom of our game closet in the old house.

I rediscovered the anxiety of an empty nest and the joy, too. And learned that blue sticky tack is from hell.

I lost big at poker, but decided the stop at Fischer’s in Muenster was worth it.

I fell more in love with the dog and she fell more in love with me. There’s a chance this is a codependent relationship. We’ll see when school starts Monday.

I slept in late and stayed up late working on books and maintained the weight loss from last year and stuck with the low carb lifestyle.

I had a blast writing the third Sharlene Gallagher book and rewriting To Trust a Prince. I coveted Karen Kelley’s new RV and decided one day DH and I would have one, too.

Thanks to DD’s insistence I finally saw Pitch Perfect and learned to my surprise that no, it’s NOT a baseball movie. I saw I Love You Man and laughed and laughed and laughed some more. And I started Scandal. Wow. Just wow. Shonda Rhimes is a genius.

You were a great summer. I’ll miss you. But it’s time to restart the day job. I love it, even though it’s frustrating some times…especially these days when the powers that be, people who aren’t in classrooms or campus admin jobs, keep asking for more and more and more to the point that effectiveness suffers system wide, but as a former principal told me once: you do what you can do. That’s my non-summer goal for the day job this year. Do what I can do. And try to continue last year’s “keep in positive” goal by focusing on the good part of the job: the students.

Goodbye summer. I’ll miss you. xoxo