Monthly Archives: April 2016

Reality Check

I got to cover a class outside the newsroom today. Enough said.

UIL Success

I can’t believe I didn’t post about District UIL. Since I read back over old posts, I want to make sure I document these moments. This year’s UIL journalism team was so different from last year’s. I had five kids on the team, four returning writers, all fantastic. (Last year I had nine kids on the team–all fantastic.) We placed in all events and won the journalism team champs. Three are moving on to Regionals in several events. To top that off, our entire UIL team won overall academic champs for the first time in 10 years. We’re a smaller school this year, but that hasn’t hurt our successes at all.

I love UIL. It was one of my favorite parts of high school. I hope my students say the same thing. ❤️ 


Put Up Your Phone!

“Mrs. Lee, Can I please be passing by today? If I’m not, I’m going to be grounded starting this weekend.”

The question wasn’t new, but my frustration was. 

See, this girl is what could be a great student. She LOVES writing features and she has incredible voice. She calls herself redneck and when she writes it’s like listening to Miranda Lambert sing.

And still she turned in a crappy story with ridiculous mistakes, no paragraphs and other sloppy work.

She’s one of those kids who’s perfectly happy with a 70. But her feature voice is NOT a 70. It’s an A with a little attention to detail. And the reason she doesn’t focus drives me crazy. 

I grabbed the iPad mini off her desk and handed it to her. 

And I lectured.

You’re a great writer, you love features and still you turned in crappy work as a final copy. Work you KNEW was awful. And still you turned it in because of THAT (I pointed at the mini). You let it control you. It interferes with your work in here, and I’m sure it interferes with your work in other classes. You’re tired every day, probably because you sit on this thing texting or FaceTiming until the early hours of the morning. Technology can be wonderful, but it can also be destructive. It will ruin your life. It will kill your grades and suck up all your time. It will hurt you on the job and in life. You have GOT to learn to turn it off and exist without it.

Lecture over. 

She turned the iPad mini off and got to work.

I love technology. We use it constantly in my classroom, and good LORD, I don’t want to go back to the days of cut and paste and light boards, but we’ve got a problem. A serious problem. So many of our kids are addicted to their phones and tablets. So many adults are too. It’s interfering with life. 

I hope we can fix this before it’s too late. 

Endorsements Aren’t the Answer

I’m one of those teachers who drinks the koolaid on a regular basis. I jump on board with lots of new fangled ideas, especially when they include words like research based and data driven. If you’ve spent any time reading my blog at all, you know that. So when I first heard about endorsements–sort of majors for high school students–I was excited. Kids need a path planned for what comes after high school before they leave school. When you have a goal, you can have a plan, and with checklists and timelines and something to measure, plans lead to goal success. 

This year I’m wary of where endorsements are taking us. That’s where this post is coming from. I’m open to discussion here, so please join in if you have an opinion. Endorsements are new and new is always tough. But what I’m seeing feels a little more worrisome than the uncomfortability brought by change. 


In an effort to make sure all students are college or career bound upon graduation, Texas has adopted an endorsement program of study. On the surface, it seems like endorsements are a great plan for student success. 

However, endorsements get it wrong. Yes, ALL students should have a plan in mind when they leave high school. No, endorsements are not the answer. Endorsements are things. They’re like band aids for a giant problem. A true plan for what comes after high school comes from relationship with a kid. It comes from a counselor who spends true time with a student, who maybe works through Myers Briggs with them and a mentor teacher or two or three who helps a kid through the rocky teen years. It takes a team of people at the school paying attention and staying on top of grades and family issues.  Endorsements don’t do that. 

Working with a student, really working with them, guiding them in a direction that leads to success after high school is an essential component to a school that works. 

If a student plans on a career in any of the trades or education paths offered through CTE centers, they should take that path because those classes are fantastic, and they give kids a foundation for success in a career outside of or alongside college. It’s FANTASTIC that Texas politicians finally understood that college bound only education was a huge failure to so many students. 

However, high school is not ONLY about a plan for the future. And when education is so pigeonholed, so precise, so completely focused on what comes next, it ends up as disasterous test-based only education has been.

I’m a student media adviser. When kids leave my program, they’re definitely ready for a successful future as a mass comm student. They’re ready for ALL successful paths after high school. Because high school media isn’t about a career or college major. It’s about community, the school community a student works and lives in. I have students who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, pharmacists, engineers, actors, directors, city workers, stay at home moms, computer programmers, social media directors, office managers, writers, journalists, photographers,  cinematographers, DJs, professors, ad account managers…the list goes on and on. I’ve done this for 22 years. I have A LOT of kids who have gone through my program. 😊

However, with endorsements, suddenly kids are telling me they can’t take my classes because they’re going to be doctors and they’re taking only STEM classes or they really have to focus on what they want to do after graduation. Kids are FREAKING out because they have no idea what they’re going to do and they feel pressured to choose a path and stick to it at 14 years old. That’s NOT what high school about. It cannot be what high school is about. 

The real answer is to give counselors and teachers more time to nurture student success after high school and to teach students how to plan for success. Endorsements don’t do that.