Tag Archives: adviser

The kid who knows too little

The girl drove me crazy.

She always called me over, always wanted me to hold her hand and walk her through what to do. She’s in a huge class of students who…keep me on my toes. And she wanted my attention 100%.

The thing is she has a great eye, and she’s super creative, and she seems to be a good student. Except in my class. 

In my class she lost 30 photos. In my class she didn’t follow the step by step instructions printed on the sheet in front of her. In my class she wanted my every moment and that just wasn’t possible.

Frustration set in, on both our parts.

Until the middle of second six weeks when she asked a new question. So how do I make a new PowerPoint again? And the girl sitting next to her added, “What is an attachment?” And the one next to her said, “I never really used email before.”

And just like that I realized for weeks I’d been speaking a foreign language to these kids. And the “Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Lee,” girl was actually the brave one willing to ask the questions.

It took three class periods, but in the end they knew what to do, and now when they walk in the classroom, they do amazing work. We lost weeks because I let my frustration get in the way of finding the positive and I didn’t bother talking to and with them to see if I could understand what the heck was wrong.

Ugh.

Something to remember for next year.

#YearbookForever

When my first principal called and asked me to take over yearbook, I said no. In my mind, I said a whole lot more than no. Newspaper was part of my soul. I’d grown up revering Walter Cronkite and reading newspapers. I fell in love with journalistic writing in high school when my adviser Mrs. Gillespie introduced me to the wonderful world of UIL and then taught me how to win.

We toured TRN and the people working at paste up with the light boards and glue and tape were so happy. And the smell of ink and paper…ahhhh. Heaven. And the reporters with their cubicles and frenetic pace. And the editor and his big office with the giant conference table for planning the issues. Yes. This was perfection. I’d found my purpose.

But yearbook? No. Just no. It was a bunch of debutantes and cheerleaders and preppy boys. No, thank you. (Former students, stick with me here. There’s a moral to this story.)

The excuse I gave was not so disparaging. I just started my MA, so I wouldn’t have time. No, thank you.

But that principal didn’t take no for an answer. He told me to call a crosstown J adviser I knew from student teaching who advised both programs and who had finished her MA advising both. I called Linda Fain, and she told me I’d be crazy not to do both because teaching English was waaaayyyy more difficult than advising yearbook.

So, cheerleader, debutantes and preppy boys all, I took on the job of yearbook adviser. It took less than a day for me to realize stereotypes suck for a reason. Because yes, yearbook was filled with all those types of kids. Just like newspaper, it was filled with all types of kids period. AND cheerleaders, debutantes and preppy boys were the same kind of wonderful as all the other types of kids out there.

By this time I had three years of newspaper kids, so the program was finally mine. I knew nothing about yearbook, though. I mean NOTHING. I only had one of my high school yearbooks (now one of my biggest regrets). I never thought yearbook was important. I mean it was pretty and all, but it was filled with all the “popular, preppy, pretty” kids so who cared? (Again, stereotypes suck. Man, I had a chip on my shoulder I didn’t even know existed back then.)

My first group of editors taught me the truth about yearbook. Yes, the yearbook is filled with photos of kids who carry the school’s spirit. If they go to everything, they’re in the book more. AND they should be.  BUT the yearbook is so much more. It’s a writing, art and creativity laboratory where kids take the school and transform everything that’s awesome about it into a book format so that those memories last forever. It’s about making an archivable product that people open and say, Holy Cow! This is the best school ever. I want to go there! It’s about telling those stories that last forever in the best way possible: through words, photos or design. It’s about giving the invisible a voice, if they want it, and showing how even though we’re all different, we’re still all Raiders (insert whatever mascot if you’re reading this and not part of Raider Nation). It’s a stereotype breaker, a demanding product that requires hours of time, complete collaboration and thinking outside the box or else it gets redundant, and you don’t want that. It’s on the job training, summer training, fall training and constantly working to get better and better and better. It’s OHMYGOD nerve-wracking because what if people don’t like it?!? It’s a place to learn the thick skin needed when you have the courage to publish your work because GUARANTEED someone WON’T like it. It’s fun and amazing and hard and, dear Jesus, it’s expensive. BUT it’s also so, so priceless.

And it’s a lot like newspaper. Different, but the same.

And I love it.

That chip on my shoulder was smashed to pieces when I took on the yearbook, and I’m a better teacher because of it.

I thought yearbook was fluff. I’ve learned it’s life. It’s the school. It’s forever.

I’m so, so blessed.

IMG_8884

18 yearbooks advised this year. 21 newspapers. #Awesome

A Failed Experiment

child's storyWhen I stand up at the front of my intro class and tell them they’re not getting regular grades on their writing, they look worried. When I show them the revision system, they freak out a little more.

If I put a grade on a kid’s paper, they’re done. But I don’t put grades on the papers. I use check plus, meets all objectives; check, meets most objectives needs correction; check minus, needs revision; X, needs tutorial session because there’s a complete disconnect with what’s supposed to happen and what happened.

Students must revise until they reach a check plus.

I usually end up with a lot of As in my intro class because of the system. They do until they do it right.

Last semester I added a new component to the system. I required the students to use Google Drive to create documents and turn them in. It seemed like a no-brianer. Moving to paperless was a responsible decision, students wouldn’t lose their work, we met in a computer lab so technology wasn’t a problem. Yay Google Drive.

Enter the real world of constant connection. Two big things happened. One, students were easily distracted by the Internet. That’s relatively easy to address, but it required constant supervision. If that were the only problem, I wouldn’t be revamping for this year.

The biggest problem I found was kids did not respond to Google edit comments the way they do to written comments. I thought they would love edit comments. No more worrying about my handwriting because the comments were typed. No more forgetting to address an issue because the issue is clearly marked on the paper.

What I found was students did not respond the same to edits on screen as they did to edits they can touch. They did not respond to my words as something I clearly took time to work on. Even when I added notes to the bottom of the page and did individual conferencing after each writing assignment, the process felt cold.

In the end, last semester’s intro class did not perform to the level of past classes, and I worked a LOT harder.

I’m going to use Google Drive again this semester. But instead of having them turn the story in there, I’m going to have them print the story and I’ll comment the old fashioned way. I’ll still have them share their stories with me while they’re in the creative stage, though, because I can see the work in progress. The class will help come up with consequences for Internet distraction.

I thought about throwing Google Drive out for the intro class, but I don’t think that’s the right answer. It didn’t work, but instead of tossing it, I’m adjusting the system. Students NEED to understand Drive. It’s part of the world we live in today. They NEED to know how to work on the computer without getting distracted (Shoot, I NEED to learn this!).

We’ll see how it works. 🙂

It’s going to be a GREAT year!

Teenagers Do

It’s easy to complain about “kids today.” That’s been the beginning of many a tirade over the centuries. I can imagine the conversation after Jesus stayed back at the temple and Mary and Joseph realized he was gone.

But here’s the deal.

Teenagers today DO. More often than not they give of their time to help others, they encourage others, they want to be more and do more and see more. They are so freaking smart! It sucks big time that they’ve been brought up in this age of standardized testing where they’ve been encouraged to do less and think less by our government, but even though they’ve been conditioned to bubble, they still THINK BIG.

They understand collaboration, and they can multi-task like nobody’s business…not as good as they think but a heck of a lot better than me.

And they do all this in a world where distractions are a constant.

CAMP 1I saw all this at the publication camps I’ve been to with my students this summer. In Dallas my yearbook editors came up with an amazing theme and worked together to bring the idea to life. They did all this while keeping up with the World Cup soccer coverage.

Camp 2Then we went to the second camp last week with newspaper, photographers and other staff and HOLY COW. They scrapped their original idea even though it meant so much more work and created a whole new concept.

I’m so excited to work with this amazing group of kids. I’m excited to see what they do next in life too.

It’s easy to gripe about kids today, but the truth is they haven’t changed. They’re as awesome as always.

*****

Don’t forget to sign up for my author newsletter here!

legs 1600by2400smallAngel Eyes, The Guardian Book 3 comes out July 20! I can’t wait to hear what readers think!

 

STATE UIL

For the ninth time in 10 years a Rider Media student is on their way to State Academic UIL competition. I’m excited. My student won 3rd in features at District and first at Regionals. Making it to State is a huge accomplishment. As a student, I never did. Over the course of my high school UIL career, I won 4th, 5th or 6th at Regionals in Newswriting, Headlines and Editorial. Back then I didn’t even understand that there was a State. LOL.

We didn’t make it to State last year. In a way that was good for me personally because usually when we win at Regionals, DH says, “Ah man, you’ve got to go to State,” because it means I’m gone three days, two of which include me driving across the state. This year, he knew better. When I texted him Shannon won first, his response was yay. Yeah, he gets it now. I was a mopey adviser during State last year since I wasn’t there…. 🙂

I’m looking forward to seeing my adviser friends.

 

In other news, Dead Girl Walking, the first Guardian book, is in audiobook production with an AMAZING narrator. I can’t wait for y’all to hear it!

Happy writing!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

School’s Still Out for Summer #MyWANA #Teacher

1 of four bags of supplies I bought for the classroom this year.

1 of four bags of supplies I bought for the classroom this year.

Right now I dread next Monday. I love my job, but there’s so much freedom during the summer. I love staying up late to work and sleeping in and wearing flipflops and yoga pants and putting my hair up in a ponytail and not wearing makeup and reading tons of romance novels and listening to my grooveshark playlist for hours and deciding last minute to take an overnight trip to the casino and summer. Yeah. All of it.

By next Sunday I’ll be ready…sort of. By the next Sunday I’ll definitely be ready.

I took the first step today: School supply shopping for the classroom.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to embrace the last few days of this break.

Dead Girl Walking

A Crossroads: Praying for OKC on a Night of Celebration

For the second time this year I was faced with a media teacher crossroads. It’s yearbook night for seniors. Our senior class puts on an ice cream social and all seniors who pre-ordered can get their books the day before they go to the rest of the school. This senior night was almost in doubt when a major severe storm hit just before show time.

But as often happens in Wichita Falls, the weather moved on and other than a some hail damage we were no worse for the wear, so we decided to go forward with senior night using the staff that were there. 

That’s when the AP wire alert sounded on my phone. When I saw a massive tornado hit the OKC metro area, we turned on CNN. We kept it on for a few minutes and I made the call to turn the TVs off.

It’s senior ice cream social and yearbook night. Most students are either related to or know someone in the OKC area.

We could watch the news or we could celebrate. We couldn’t do both. 

So we turned the TV off and we passed out he books and the seniors who made in after the storm had a great time.

On the way home I listened to the news and cried.

It’s interesting because the yearbook theme this year is Hero. Yearbook editor Emma White’s done an amazing job writing theme copy. Her closing copy fits today perfectly:

 

“The Oath: Sometime life throws you in the dumpster. Sometimes we don’t even know we’re there until a hero comes along, grabs our reaching hands, and pulls us out. The people free, walking around, have to be heroes because they are the only ones who can see the cages. We have a duty to help one another, to reach out even if we can’t help. A superhero never saved the day by himself. Even prominently solo-working heroes like Superman and Batman have their counterparts. The world would be in shambles if Superman and Batman didn’t have Lois Lane, Robin, and Officer Gordon. Spider-Man is just a creepy mutant kid without Uncle Ben and Aunt May, As Rider Raiders, we have to stand up when we get pushed down. When we’re told we’re not as good as everyone thinks we are by our toughest critics, we will be the ones to stand back up and prove them wrong the next time around. We can’t do it. We can’t face the world, not by ourselves. It is not humanly possible to enter the world alone and come out alive. The obstacles on the quest of our lives, finding our identities, learning who we are, cannot simply be overcome by one person. We are finding the differences in the world between the good, the bad, and the ugly, and realizing that they often all three come together. We are finding the hardships of life can only be overcome when we are there for one another. Our oath in leaving high school, in leaving this year, is to always look forward, but to never forget who we were, and that we will be heroes for as long as we can deliver a roundhouse kick to the face of our fears.”

Praying for people in OKC, for those babies who’ve lost their lives and their families who have a world of heartbreak ahead. 

Image

**Photo by Hope Alvarez, copy by Emma White.