Tag Archives: journalism

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.

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!

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!

Today was awesome and then…

I spent all day in my Sharlene Gallagher universe. It was awesome. Half way through the day I posted this on Facebook:

ImageSo far Sharlene has fought demons, put some mean girls in their place, snagged a kiss (hel-lo, I write romance) and aced Calculus all while saving the world. Pretty good day for a guardian angel.

So yeah. Great day.

Even better because I finished edits on the book. Wonderful!

AND THEN (SPOILER ALERT…there’s no happy ending to this post. It veers off on a crazy direction of gloom courtesy of the news. If you don’t want to go there, quit reading now and enjoy the gloriousness of my day with Sharlene!

Better yet go read the first or second book. Angel Eyes isn’t ready yet, but it will be soon!)

 

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you)

 

(Third time’s the charm. The rest of this post is a rant…)

 

 

 

WAH! I’m addicted to the news. How did I let it ruin my great day?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I watched News Hour. And the whole time the source talked about a serious problem with education I thought I can’t believe a word you say because I no longer trust News Hour and I no longer believe the Dept. of Education wants public schools to survive. AND then I got in this funk of reading all sorts of education news that made me even more depressed.

And that just sucks. Because until then I was thinking about how EXCITED I am for Monday and how weird that is because Monday is the beginning of the end of the school year…testing, crazy hormonal students, deadlines. But even with all that I’m looking forward to seeing my kids again. They make me love my job. Most educators I know love their jobs. But now I’m all stressed and sad and grumpy and I think I better go work on the romantic suspense I’m revising because I get to blow stuff up in those books and that might actually make me feel better.

I teach journalism. I can’t quit the news. I think I might have to, though. Boo.

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!

JCamp 101

I don't have the kids' permission to post pics of them to my blog, or I'd have a pic of them working!

I don’t have the kids’ permission to post pics of them to my blog, or I’d have a pic of them working!

Yearbook camp at Rider this week has been amazing. It’s not just my kids. I invited all the area schools. Iowa Park, Hirschi and Graham have been in the room with several of my kids. So far we’ve learned more about story and photography and how to critique. Tomorrow we start design and the kids will be get busy working on actual products they can take back to their rooms for use in their yearbooks and papers. MSU Professor Bradley Wilson and two of my former students–one in training to be an adviser, one already an adviser–are there helping. It’s AMAZING. Two yearbook companies have donated supplies. Balfour brought adviser gifts and fun stuff for the kids. Walsworth gave us food yesterday and brought supplies. My rep Brian would have taught, but photo ran over on time, which was totally cool because the kids learned so much. He’s coming back Thursday to help instead.

My vision when I decided to do this camp was to improve scholastic journalism in the area and to let everyone know about TAJE, our state J organization.

The reality is so much more than I ever could’ve imagined.

Yep, I love my job. #

 

 

If you’ve ever felt judged because of the color of your skin, stand up

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

Friday culminated a week of first amendment lectures in my J1 class. The week introduced a new semester of students to the class (and to me). These kids have already touched my heart. Here’s one reason why:

We played the “If you’ve ever had brown hair,” etc. game in class Friday. You know,

If you’ve ever had brown hair, blue hair, purple hair, orange hair, brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes, been made fun of for your clothes…stand up.

We can’t play this right away. I’ve got to wait until late enough in the class that I’ve connected with the kids (five days this semester), but not so late that they know me too well. I’ve got to play along. I stepped forward for every one of the hair colors. That made them laugh and put them at ease.

On we went through about 15 or so “If you’ve evers” until we got to the zingers:

“If you’ve ever felt judged because of your gender, stand up.” And “if you’ve ever felt out of place because of the color of your skin, stand up.” And then, “if you’ve ever felt judged because of the color of your skin, stand up.” This is the most diverse J1 class I’ve ever had. Almost every kid in the room stood up. I think the kids were a little surprised I was going there with this lesson.

And then I said the words I started this blog with:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” and they said the words with me. I didn’t expect that, but it made for one of the most powerful moments in my teaching career. When we got to the whole 9-11, 2005 study showing 1 in 5 teens believed the first amendment gives too many freedoms, the kids in the class didn’t understand how that could possibly be.

Someone told me today shouldn’t be a holiday. I disagree. You see, I had a diverse classroom full of teenagers stand when I asked if they’d ever been judged because of the color of their skin. If the person who told me today shouldn’t be a holiday had seen the hurt in the eyes of the 14-17-yr-old children standing at the end of a game that isn’t a game at all, if they’d seen the simmering anger there in some of those eyes, they’d understand how very important this day is. Things might be better, but we’re not there yet.

Freedom Worth Fighting For

So I’m sitting in my classroom after school working on my lesson for tomorrow when all the sudden BAM! I’m nearly in tears, which would be totally uncool since we’re on deadline and I have a classroom of kids working right now.

All week in J-1 we’ve focused on the first amendment and we’ve looked at video clips and photos and discussed Hazelwood, Tinker, Bong Hits for Jesus. We’ve looked at Tiananmen Square and talked about student protests and communism and how horrible the massacre was and then we looked at the US and the Civil Rights protests and the kids are totally into it and so am I. These have been AWESOME days.

This class responds well to lecture with technology (NOT a POWERPOINT!), but clips to emphasize points or photos to start discussion. Tomorrow I’m going to tell them about the study released in 2005 that said:

“When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.”

And we’re going to talk about how many students believed at that time that the first amendment caused 9-11, which brings me to the BAM.

I planned on showing the Sept. 12, 2001 newspaper front pages while I lectured. I wanted the point to hit home. And then I wanted to let the screen go black and talk about the first amendment and the rights it protects once again. But when I loaded those pages onto Evernote, I suddenly found myself right back there in those days after the terrorists attacks.

I live in Wichita Falls, Texas. I didn’t know anyone personally hurt by the terrorists that day. But I watched the news non-stop from the time the planes hit the Towers. I’m a media teacher, and we had the news on already that day. I slept with the news on, waiting, hoping, praying for some kind of miracle, and then praying for peace for those directly impacted and praying for internal peace to move past the anger and hatred toward those who committed the atrocities. All the while the news played in the background until we finally couldn’t watch any more. I didn’t realize what I’d done until a few months later when I found myself waking up sure my daughter was dead. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d get up and go check on her to make sure she was okay even though I knew my fear was ridiculous. After a few weeks of that I broke down and told my doctor what was going on. I was so embarrassed! She told me she believed I’d given myself a form of PTSD from watching the news too much after the attacks. I took the medicine she prescribed for about six months then weened myself off. I haven’t had a problem since, really.

I don’t watch the 9-11 specials. I feel guilty about that in a way, but I can’t. I went to see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because I didn’t realize it was a 9-11 movie. I almost walked out when the answering machine message played the first time. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s definitely one of those movies everyone should see at least once. I was shaky for a day after the movie, but I never went back to that dark place from 2001.

Today though, when I scrolled through those Sept. 12 pages, one after another after another, I had to turn off the iPad, move away from my presentation and sit here and write and pray and tell myself to focus on the good instead. On the light. On the resiliency of people. On the power of the first amendment and why people have been willing to die for it over the centuries and why people have been willing to die to TRY to get something close and why it’s essential I teach it in my classes every day. Because in 2005 1 in 3 students thought the first amendment gave too many freedoms and I think sometimes that number’s gone up and that’s scary, so scary, so absolutely terrifying because if we let that thought process continue without fighting it, the terrorists won that day.

I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow for the visual during the lecture. Maybe now that I’ve written this all out, I’ll be okay showing the front pages. Maybe I’ll use a still image. Maybe I’ll plug in my iPad and let the class watch while I talk with my back to the wall. Whatever I decide, I know what every student will have in their hands. It’s that piece of paper I handed out the first day of class. And on that paper are the words that matter most:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

I Refused to Miss School Today No Matter What. Here’s Why

Best class ever. Here’s why:

  1. Prerequisite: 1st Amendment understanding

Nuclear war left world devastated. Group left makes up Goodist society where the world is always Good. No violence. No poverty. No divorce. Supressive rules: censored music, censored education. Goodist Judges who speak for the people and serve for life once elected. No marriage until 25, but must live with parents until then and train for a true career so when they turn 25, they can have a good life, therefore no money problems, which is a leading cause of divorce. No open religious beliefs since religion is a huge cause of conflict; however, personal beliefs in your own home are perfectly fine. Those who don’t follow the rules or don’t want to try are sent to the nuclear wasteland. Outcasts must sit alone. The Goodists don’t let the Outcasts form a community at the beginning of the game for fear the Outcasts would try to overthrow them and their bubble. Point of project: convince those undecided to join a side. Outcasts also trying to convince Goodists to become Outcast. Goodists trying to convince undecides to join them, but they will not allow those Outcast to join them. (AT NO TIME IN THE SESSION CAN THE MODERATOR interfere with how this plays out. You MUST be like Jeff Probst. You can ask questions, but you can’t make things happen. )

THIS SESSION (end of 2012 semester Jan. 9-11)

1.  Most of class is Goodist. 3 judges chosen, they sit in front and face forward. Only judges speak for Goodists unless a judge sees a silent Goodist with their hand raised requesting the opportunity to speak.  One Outcast. About 10 undecided.

2. An absentee joins Outcasts. 2 against rest of class.

3. Debate begins by undecideds questioning the Goodists judges or the Outcasts. Only judges speak for the Goodists unless a judge calls on a Goodist society member. At any time, the Goodist judges can call for a 60-second Goodist discussion before answering a question. When that happens Goodists meet, discuss and come up with an answer, then judge responds. Outcasts can not talk to each other at all at first. They are solitary.

4. After twenty minutes of debate a Goodist who’s been reprimanded for speaking without judges’ consent three times is kicked out of Goodist community. Goodists cheer. These judges are great at letting their people talk, so they are liked.

5. Goodist judge and undercover operative of Outcasts operating as undecided gets in kerfuffle with Goodist judge over whether a Goodist teenager committing a crime would be Outcast. She says if that’s her child she will be leave with him. Half of Goodists leave. Undecided explains she’s really Outcast.

6. The original Outcast asks Goodist judges if he can have his own group and sign a peace treaty. Goodist judges agree. EVERY Outcast joins with original in new group even though he’s not given them the laws of his new society. End of Day 1

Day 2. Moderator starts by reminding groups where we were at end of day 1 and telling Outcasts we’re going to give them a chance to change their minds about the new society since they all joined without having a clue as to what they were joining. She tells original Outcast to take two minutes to come up with the laws of his society.  (AGAIN, moderator must let student draw his own conclusions. Do Not Get Involved)

7. Moderator takes the eight remaining Goodists to the hall to come up with treaty points while Outcast leader explains new law. Five minutes later Goodists come in to discover three girls left Outcasts and are solitary. Before the new leader speaks his group other than about five on the outside huddle and do a “Go Team!” chant then “1-2-3 break hand clap thing.”) New Outcasts are caller Murica and they are based on the USA and first amendment. One of remaining two undecideds joins Murica society. No one else changes sides.

8. Now President of Murica, his vice president and the three Goodists judges meet to go over peace accord. While they are signing the treaty, one of the three solitary Outcasts asks permission to speak to Murica President and Goodist judges. She requests that the three solitary outcasts be allowed to join together. President says yes. Judges say only if the three girls are willing to move far away so they won’t be a threat to the Goodists or the new Murica society.

9. Treaty signed, but before that one of the Goodist judges tells new president she thinks the three girls really want to assassinate him and take over Murica. President asks judges if he could please have armed  secret service agents to protect him. Judges say yes. Three Murica citizens are chosen to serve as new president’s protection. President tells one agent to go kill as many of the new group as possible; however, while the treaty was in the process of being signed, 1 of the girls in the new unnamed group was silently going to the outer areas of Murica and asking individuals to join her group.1st one she asks is the undercover Outcast who posed as an undecided. The group tells her if she doesn’t join them, they’ll “kill” her instead of letting her return to her group. (At this point they call me over and ask if that would be permissible. I decide yes and tell girl if that’s the case, she will need to sit next to the wall and not say anything. Since her leader and the judges are signing peace accords, no one really notices this conversation taking place. At this time new group also tells me they’re really a violent group set on overthrowing the Goodists because they want the bubble of non-nuclear wasteland world the Goodists have created. They just want to make sure that’s okay. It is. It’s THEIR game.) Girl chooses to join new group. New group sends girl over to Murica to start recruiting for their society.  Every individual who wasn’t part of the original huddle does so. The ones in the huddle do not. (interesting.) The girl originally recruited was actually one of the huddle leaders. (also interesting.) The new people in the group sit a little apart from the original third group except two people. One: the original recruit who chose not to die and a best friend of one of the girls.

10. While peace treaty being signed Goodists left at home sit silently watching and listening. They’ve never been given a voice, so they don’t try to use it now. Muricans from huddle keep talking to each other about what they want to make Murica and throwing out comments they hope President can hear. Three secret service agents pretend to have guns and keep pointing them at new group, but they say nothing about how some of their people are moving over there. Suddenly as the President and judges are signing the treaty, one of the new recruits (best friend) runs across the room and assassinates the most vocal of the Goodist judges.

11. CHAOS ensues. Kids are loud and confused and the everyone backs away from the judge except the other judges. The judge says “You can’t do that” then looks at me for confirmation.
Game over and we go back to a circle to discuss what’s happened over the course of the last two days and how the same thing happens all over the world. We discuss Utopias, WW2, 1984, The Hunger Games, dystopian literature in general. Tomorrow we’ll break it down even further and talk about WHY THIS MATTERS.

Every year this exercise AMAZES me. I’m stunned by how it plays out. It’s an RPG, so the students have to control the outcome. If the adviser tries to, it destroy the learning outcome. Don’t do it. Let the first amendment work. It will.

You do have to facilitate. Since it’s a debate and an RPG. You have to be in control of the classroom at all times. You can’t be too strict because you have to let things happen. Make sure the debate goes on for at least a day so you have plenty of discussion points. If for some reason the debate stalls say you’re taking off your moderator hat and become an undecided and ask questions that will lead to conflicted answers. If you empower the students, they will start taking part in the discussion. In all the years I’ve done this (almost two decades) only two classes ever didn’t make this work. One year every kid in the class went to the Outcast side.  (AWESOME year, by the way.) When that happened I let them lead the discussion on why. It turned into point/counter point. The usual second and third days were spent studying first amendment cases and high school students and how they affected kids in my school district.  The second year it didn’t work, I messed up. I did it at the end of my first set of first amendment lessons, so about three weeks into the semester. The students didn’t have enough confidence in their voice in my classroom yet, so they were afraid to debate each other and afraid to question me if I threw out those “devil’s advocate” type scenarios. Wait to do this until the end of the third six weeks and it should be fun.

I loved this week. Once again, the first amendment wins and once again my students leave the classroom with a lesson they’ll never forget.

It’s kind of like tricking them into working HARD without them realizing it. 🙂 Sneaky teacher. Yeah, that’s me.

*This lesson started as a lesson from the Freedom of Information in Texas organization. It was a freedom of religion exercise about the Church of Goodism. The kids never got into it like that, so I changed it. Turning it into a dystopia and making the religious element one of several points makes this a lot of fun.

Why I Teach

I teach because I enjoy my job. I enjoy journalism and writing and current events and debates and discussions and books and movies and computer programs and kids who yell, “Mrs. Lee, help! The spinning pinwheel of doom won’t go away.” Or “oh GOD, I think the server just disappeared.”
I teach because most days when the alarm wakes me up, I don’t hide under the covers and say “I don’t wanna.” Most days I get myself going and by the time I walk in the building, I’m ready to see the teenagers who’ve changed my life from year to year and the adults I work with.
I teach because I can tell a room full of kids the Big Fat Man story, and even though those who’ve heard it before groan, they still laugh when I get to the nonsense ending.
I teach because it’s the one place a room of teenagers ASKS me to make up a song on Garage Band and then sing it to the one who needs to hear the words.
I teach because sometimes heartbroken, hurt, angry students will tell me their stories, ask for my advice, and actually take that advice and do something with it.
I teach because I love working with kids who give up their weekends to compete by taking tests with the hopes of moving on to the next level (hello UIL!).
I teach because I think it’s amazing to watch a kid revise and revise and revise for a check plus because I tell them I won’t give them a grade for anything less (even though the gradebook clearly shows I will).
I teach because I love it. And even though tomorrow will be one of those pull the covers over the head and say “I don’t wanna” mornings, by the time I get to my classroom (or before if I don’t hit all the lights on SWPKWY), I’ll be excited to be there, ready to make a difference.