Tag Archives: advising

Yearbook Day

I want the yearbooks I advise to make kids happy. I hope when they look at the book they see their school and think, wow, my school is so cool! I want people who don’t go to my school to look at the book and think, wow, I wish I went to that school. And I want the book to be pretty. 

When the book comes out, I hope it looks like the process of making it was effortless.  (Hahahahaha.)

And, I’m not gonna lie, I hope people say they love the book.

All of the above is me. The kids on staff want to world to love their hard work. They want kudos too.

Which is why for years, ever since adviser Lori Oglesbee shared her yearbook day letter at a workshop, I’ve done the same.

The letter says something along the lines of: yay yearbook! Then: all the facts about distribution. Then:  to teachers, in the same way you wouldn’t criticize an athlete for a bad play or a theatre kid for a flubbed line, please do not hurt the kids by complaining about the book to them and please come see me if there are real issues that need to be addressed. 

I warn the kids to be ready. Love your work. Be proud. You did an amazing job. You took all these pages that were completely blank and turned them into this beautiful work of art. But there will be mistakes because this is a printed product produced on a deadline and you and I are human. Mistakes are part of the process. And mistakes or complaints will be a constant in your day when we release the book. Love the book anyway. And come up with some great ways to handle the minor complaints: oh man, I am so sorry! Wait. We only have 12 people on staff next year. You should fit yearbook in your schedule and we won’t have that problem! Or oh wow! Yeah. You have 100s in all your classes too, right? No? But it’s the same thing. Our mistakes are just published. Or just a simple I am so sorry meant for real. On the big things I tell the kids to bring the kid with the issue to me. 

We do respond now though. But always in a way that hopefully stays fun. Negativity is a snowball. Little things grow and grow and before you know it one person’s little problem has become an entire group’s avalanche of awful. Add in social media and you’ve got a mess sometimes. 

And all of that is so important for the kids to learn and experience. 

Thick skin is something you have to acquire through trial by fire. Once you’ve got it, it serves you well for life. 

So yesterday was yearbook day 19 for me, and it was beautiful. And it was also tough. But more than anything, it was a huge part of the learning experience. 

Yay yearbook!

The photos are from when the staff saw their book for the first time. They were so happy. That’s the moment that makes advising the best!

Something Unexpected: The Power of I WANT

I don't have all my photos from this trip on my computer. That is so weird. But I have this one. <3

I don’t have all my photos from this trip on my computer. That is so weird. But I have this one. ❤

When I was a high school freshman, my French teacher had us write down an I Want list.

Back then I lived in books. I saw the world in books. I conquered evil through books, found magic in books, played make believe in books.

And more than anything my books helped me know I wanted to go to Paris one day.

Back then me going to France was as probable as me playing for a state winning sports team. If you’ve ever seen me walk and talk at the same time, you’ll understand that.

Still, my teacher told us to write the I Want down even if the I want was impossible. I don’t know if she knew it, but way back then she was teaching me the power of releasing something to the universe. I released that dream to the universe, along with a ton of others, then got back to the business of being a kid.

Life happened.

And suddenly it was 2008 and the summer after my daughter’s graduation I took a group of students on a tour to….

Yep. Paris.

I remember walking out of the train station and staring in wonder at the beauty that was this city often considered the most magical place on earth and drinking in the flowers on balconies and the coffee shops and the Parisians. It was all so unreal and beautiful and amazing. But it didn’t really hit me until the next day when our group walked into Notre Dame.

I stood outside those gorgeous doors in awe of this sacred place that had become a tourist destination and grumpily wondered why it was so hot and smelly. Seriously. The place was crazy with traffic and kids were running all over the place screaming and I was hungry and those stupid cobblestones were a pain in every part of my feet. The birds, God, the birds. They were so gross. And people smoke in Paris worse than they do in the Oklahoma casinos.

I mean I said all the right words. “Cool.” “Wow!” “I can’t believe we’re here!”

But they were a front for what I was really feeling, which isn’t appropriate for this conversation.

But then we walked inside and everything changed.

Walking through the doors into the Notre Dame everything changed. The hair on my arm stood on end as I entered this place that is still holy even though tourists visit in droves. I looked at those arches and those statues and those candles and the floor and the rose window, the glass…truly breath taking. Tears filled my eyes and I was so thankful. Thankful to God, thankful to my daughter and her friends and my mother-in-law who was there with me. Thankful to my friends and fellow teachers who were there.

I remembered that kid sitting in French class in Burkburnett, Texas writing down I want to go to Paris on a list of impossibilites. And with that, I lost it. I boo hoo’d like a baby. Tears streamed down my face, and I’m pretty sure I embarrassed my mother-in-law.

I don’t think I understood the power of the I Want list, even then. But over the last few years of studying The Success Principles and The Artist’s Way and The Secret and the bible, I’ve learned our words have incredible power for good or bad. When we release them to the universe, the universe will answer. Even if we don’t really believe that.

So yeah. The lessons I spent twenty forevers building for week one dealt with goal setting, visualization and affirmation. We hit goal setting hard and talked briefly about affirmation and maybe, maybe, two kids wrote affirmations.

But the I want list was a big star of the show because some of last year’s kids still had their’s and they were able to say, “Hey, I crossed some of my I wants off my list since last January.”

I was able to say I crossed five off my list.

And even if the newbies didn’t believe in the power of an I Want list, they were, for the most part, willing to give it  try.

I understand the reluctant ones. God, I understand them. The disbelief in the supposed truth that anything is possible. Life makes it easy to NOT believe sometimes. And it’s not like you can wiggle your nose and WHAM, the I want happens. You have to work. YOU have to work hella hard sometimes.

But when you put that I want on paper, you have a destination. You know where you want to go. Now you just have to figure out the right way to get there.

That’s what we did last week.

We looked at where we want to get personally and with the different staffs. This week we’re figuring out how to get there.

It’s easy to get caught up in the ickiness on the road to a goal. The pain and heartache and no’s and failures and drama and conflict and testing and interruptions and the news and cell phones and PDAS and all that jazz. But I hope starting with this will help us all work together to start every day with a destination in mind. I know it will help me embrace the journey.


A week of regular classes and then finals. We can do this. We can do this. We can do this.

Hopefully the technology works in my classroom tomorrow since we’re supposed to have a newspaper deadline. If it doesn’t, we’ll figure something out.

That’s been the theme of this year. It’s not our tech’s fault. He works so hard trying to keep our room running. Something was off this year, though. Hopefully it’s fixed for next year.

That’s one of the best things about this job. We get do-overs.



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.







No Fear

Flags fly at half staff at the Dec. 14 4A state semifinal Rider vs. Lancaster game at Northwest ISD Stadium following President Obama's directive after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 students and faculty members dead.

Flags fly at half staff at the Dec. 14 4A state semifinal Rider vs. Lancaster game at Northwest ISD Stadium following President Obama’s directive after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 students and faculty members dead.

An hour after I’d taken a camo, guns up photo with my newspaper editor one of my students ran into the newsroom and said we needed to turn on the TV. I logged on to CNN, saw “school shooting,” and we turned the station from our school feed to 27.

We’re on December deadline for the magazine and yearbook, but all work stopped as we watched Anderson Copper walk through the horrifying facts he knew. A minute in he said elementary school and 20 dead, more feared, and for the first time in my career as a media teacher, I said “Turn the news off.”

I told the students if they wanted to follow coverage, they could log on to news sites. No one argued, and most quickly sent I Love You texts to their families then went back to work in the room immersed in black and gold state semifinal football game excitement. I prayed silently at my desk, then pushed the reality of the world away and focused on ROHO (Ride on Honorable One) and OFOT (One Family, One Team), two of my school’s unifying concepts. The pall of the events unfolding in Connecticut simmered beneath the surface, but for the most part we purposefully wrapped ourselves in the bubble of avoidance.

After the game, one of the best I’ve ever seen other than the fact that we’re not moving on to State, I sat, soaked and freezing, and posted that I was turning my phone off because I didn’t want to lose the bubble. I made it 45 minutes, and then my news addicted personality took over.

I devoured the New York Times coverage of the shooting and prayed some more. When we got home around 1 a.m. I jumped in a hot shower, prayed again, and went to sleep.

This morning I woke up angry and horrified and so incredibly sad as I thought of those babies and their teachers and that principal and those guns that fire so many bullets so fast. The police press conference added to that anger because the man speaking had to request that the media leave the parents alone when the names of the dead children are announced. It won’t be long and politicians will add to the anger because they’ll turn this into a Republican vs Democrat soundbite opportunity.

Now I’m sitting here on the computer, blogging once again about an unthinkable tragedy brought on by violence and brokenness. Once again I have to say we can’t let the monsters win. We can’t live in fear.

Monday, we’ll have to talk about this in my classes. I’m a media teacher, and this is life.

I’m thankful for yesterday’s bubble. I’m thankful for OFOT and ROHO. I’m thankful for prayer, my school, my students.

I won’t live in fear. I’ll still go to school, to the movies, the mall, to New York City on an airplane. I’ll still dress in camo on Camo Day, I’ll still “get my guns up” and scream “Go, Raiders.” I’ll still pray silently at my desk when the unthinkable happens.

I won’t live in fear. Not ever.

Awesome day

Today was a glorious day. The yearbook’s not done, and it won’t be done until next week because I’m STILL waiting on coaches. It’s my fault though. I haven’t been organized enough. And really, all but a couple of the coaches get their stuff in early. The late YB proofs are okay, though.
My kids rocked today. Once again I remembered why it is I teach and why it is I love it!

ETA: Up to 5942 words. And today’s words I kind of like. 🙂

The Digital Revolution

New year, new semester, fresh starts, blank slates.
I love new semesters and I can’t wait to see what this one has in store.
Advising publications has changed significantly over the last 15 years. The digital revolution has made everything easier, but the sheer amount of information makes it more difficult, too.
Kids are far more comfortable IM’ing, chatting, texting than they are talking. Interview electronically and you get great quotes. But you lose the body language, the setting, the intensity.
You also lose a bit of the reality. Because people will write things in an e-mail or in a chat they’d never say in real life.
I wonder where we’re headed with communication. Five years ago I would’ve never imagined students telling me they’d rather text than talk on the phone. This year most of my kids told me that was the case.
And it’s contagious, I guess. The other day I was trying to text on my old non-backlit phone while DH and I were running errands, and I couldn’t see the text. Instead of calling the friends I was trying to reach, I closed the phone and decided I’d try later.
I never tried. No telling what I missed out on. All because I didn’t want to talk.
When I first started teaching, we’d read the book 1984 and my kids would say that would never happen. These days we worry about WHEN it will happen.
I love the movie Wall-E. But it’s disturbing that the whole time I watched it, I wondered if that’s where we’re headed.
I hope not.
I love words. Explicate is my favorite word because of the way it feels to say it. That just doesn’t work in text speak.
I love the digital revolution, but I hope it doesn’t destroy us.

One of the kids in the newsroom on her iPhone. You can't see it because she wasn't supposed to be doing it, but I know. I never saw her talk on the phone. Not once in the whole time I had her in class, but I saw her text and play games all the time.

I love conferences

I’ve learned so much and been inspired and written lots. This conference has been a true blessing. I did learn from someone today that contractions aren’t to be used in writing EXCEPT in quotes. This was news to me.
Actually the person who told me this did a great job for the most part. And until she told me this, I listened to her. Once those words came out of her mouth, I think my eyebrows landed somewhere in the vicinity of Mars, I said REALLY???! and that was the end of that. My students had to hold their hands over their mouths to keep from laughing.
Ah well. Hopefully this person NEVER gets my book to judge in anything super important. Somehow, I feel confident she’d HATE all our stories. We use contractions on a pretty regular basis. 🙂
She really was nice. And she gave some good pointers too. I’m just appalled that a writing teacher thinks contractions aren’t supposed to be used. I wonder which guardian of language destroyed her ability to craft story.
I probably should’ve told her what I thought of that rule. But I had students with me and I thought that would be wrong. Especially since she spent a lot of time on our book. And she gave some amazing Photoshop pointers I plan on using immediately.
Tomorrow we go home. But first, we get to hear the absolutely AMAZING Thomas French. (I wonder if he knows you’re not supposed to use contractions? I bet it’s a box on the Pulitzer checklist.)
Today also I went to a class given by Pine Tree yearbook. They’re from Longview. and they’ve had hundred of evacuees in their town. Their yearbook staff has set up a blog where high school reporters help tell evacuee stories. It’s amazing! If you get a chance, check it out.

The End Is Near

The end is near.
For eleven years I’ve been lucky enough to walk into a classroom and love my job. Even on bad days when my students are whiny, my staff misses deadlines and teenagers drive me berserk, in the back of my mind I know I’m lucky.
How many people love what they do?
I sometimes forget how much I love what I do.
This year’s been trying to say the least. A new schedule made it seem like I was on deadline all the time. Writing was something I dreamed about and played at but never really did much of. Over night my biological on time switched to off. In the olden days (read: last year), I could stay up and write from 10-2. It was marvelous the way the muse hit and words poured from my fingers onto the keyboard and across the screen. I’d click my Playlist to Evanescence of AirSupply and off I’d go on a journey to whatever new country I’d created.
This year 10 hit and I was beyond exhausted. By 9 my eyelids would start to weigh down, my eyes burned. I’d try coffee, my old secret weapon, but even that didn’t work. For seven years coffee had inspired me to write. Now nothing could. Not even chocolate. Not even the knowledge that someone else had sold. I was just too tired.
But that was then.
I plan on erasing those wordless months next week.
And next year I’m shifting gears in the newsroom. My kids are going to write and they’re going to read and they’re going to read some more.
For years I’ve been preaching the virtues of voracious reading, but I haven’t really done anything to make sure it happens in my classroom.
I realize now that’s essential. Not only to them but to me. To my writer’s soul.
It’s going to be war.
You wouldn’t think it would be since the majority of my students are honors kids who make 5s on their AP Lit tests. But this year I’ve realized most of my students don’t read anything more taxing than Lucky or Cosmo when it comes to entertainment. They read the old dead white men when they have to just because their teachers tell them they must. They tell me, and they’re quite proud of this fact, that they hate reading. That their love for reading was destroyed right around the time of seventh or eighth grade when they were forced to read Frankenstein and analyze it for figurative language.
Yeah. I would’ve hated reading too.
Not that Frankenstein is a bad book. Mary Shelley’s bio. would’ve been enough for me to read the book in awe and terror, but when kids are forced to read for grades and no one’s encouraging them to read for pleasure, a problem starts and festers until suddenly I’m stuck with a classroom filled with kids who can analyze the heck out of style, can tell you all about figurative language and what the author meant to do, can write one awesome paper, but ask them the last good book they read and the look at you with blank stares until one of them whispers, “Did you just say good?”
I know I can’t undo years of I HATE READING mentality in all of my kids. But I’m going to do my best. Sure some of my students will still read the classics, but hopefully some of them will pick up some newer authors. I can’t wait to share Isabelle Allende and Rudolfo Anaya and Andre Breton and Rick Reilly (the BEST writer in America in my opinion) and Mary Higgins Clark and Janet Evanovich and Meg Cabot with them.
My students have already been warned. They know a reading revolution is brewing in the newsroom. I saw a girl surreptitiously checking out my Princess Diaries book the other day, so the first shot’s been fired.
I love my job now. I think I’ll love it more soon.