Tag Archives: journalism

Doubt Demons

I passed out doubt demons in class today. I started class showing off mine. His name is Freddy.

I told the kids I write novels and love words and help edit others’ work, and still there are times I sit at the computer and hate everything about everything. I hate the way the words look, they way they feel when I say them, the scene they’re part of. I hate the commas and periods and pronouns. I hate it all. And if I let it, that feeling will consume me and the work and it’s so bad I just want to trash it all and start something shiny and new and fun. Something I can LOVE. But with my doubt demon around, I can pick him up, put him on my finger and say, “Not today, Freddy. Not today.”

After I told my story, I broke out the demons and invited the kids to choose their own. No one had to, but if they wanted one, they could take one, name it and have it out at their workstations while they work the rest of the year.

I thought I’d been pretty open about my writing, but as I told my story today my kids sat there listening and nodding their heads and even saying “Yes!” at times. They’re halfway through the year and they’ve faced all the doubt struggles that come with interviewing and writing and designing and photo stories. They know their work is going to be published and it lasts forever and the pressure is real. Some of them write creatively outside our class. They understand doubt. But until today I don’t think it ever really connected that I know doubt too.

I hope the doubt demons help us all banish the negativity and embrace the reality that the doubt is just part of the process.

*I ordered my doubt demons at Archie McPhee.

I’m thankful to Angelique L’Amour who introduced me to Doubt Demons at last year’s DFW Writers Conference. If you get a chance, definitely take her classes!

What I’m Loving: Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead, LCHF, Finals!, Saginaw Night Writers, Quest nacho cheese flavored chips

What I’m Writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

Books I’ve Loved This Year: Atomic Habits, Dumplin’

Tales From the Classroom

She didn’t have her photos.

Easy photos.

20 photos that tell the story of our classroom.

But nope. No photos.

Why?

Her phone had no storage.

No problem. I gave her a little point and shoot to take her photos.

Excited, she took the camera, started walking around pressing the display screen in frustration.

Wait. What?

“Miss, how does this work? How do I get pictures?”

That’s when I realized I’d made a world of assumptions. When I handed her that camera, I assumed she would know how to use it because it was a simple point and shoot.

But that simple camera was completely foreign to her. She’s 14. She’s grown up pushing a button on a screen to take photos.

Fortunately, she wasn’t afraid to speak up when doing that didn’t work.

I showed her how to snap the pictures and she quickly took care of the assignment.

She learned how to use a point and shoot. I learned a whole lot more.

So often I think I’m assigning something super easy, but it’s only easy if the students have had specific life experiences.

I’ve got a lot more to learn.

On to the next assignment.

What I’m loving: The Young and the Restless, the train running from Fort Worth to the airport, DoTERRA On Guard, Quest snickerdoodles, Spark People, teaching

What I’m writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

21st Century Education: Yearbook

A few years ago someone asked me if yearbooks were even relevant anymore.

I was ready with my standard response: Kids in publications classes learn to communicate effectively, collaborate, problem solve, question why, tell their community’s story creatively and work on a deadline under massive stress in complete chaos. Relevant? Check out the 21st century education skill sets demanded by today’s top corporations and you’ll see yearbook checks almost every box. With design and surveys, it even makes the math cut.

Yearbook, newspaper and journalism classes aren’t just about the end product. BUT the end product does, in education speak, show mastery of the skills learned in the course. In yearbook’s case, the book encapsulates the school year FOREVER. In 50 years the book will be what people turn to to learn about the past. The yearbook is the school in book format.

Yearbook is not just relevant, it’s essential.

(More on this tomorrow.)

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.