Tag Archives: kids

THANKFUL #mywana

The British Museum always makes me think of Harrison Ford. Another thing to be thankful for.

The British Museum always makes me think of Harrison Ford. Another thing to be thankful for.

Things I’m excited about September edition: Survivor, cooler temperatures, the Colonial Marriage Ministry Sacred Marriage class, teaching InDesign to kids after school, watching the freshmen become Raiders, first amendment memorization, watching new editors learn to make lists, revising Sharlene book 3, more dominoes with Mom and Dad, kisses, decorating the living room of the new house, watching DD transform from a kid into a woman ready to take on the world, seeing Pam B on Wednesdays if only for a minute, remembering the freedom of an empty nest during deadlines but also remembering the newsroom is not life, orange, learning new low carb recipes that rock, CS6, gearing up for NaNo, high school football, hockey, halftime shows. Funny, when I started this, I thought the list would be small enough for a Facebook status update. Goal this year: start every day thankful.

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.


Not Enough

He was just walking around downtown Sunday, looking for someone to bum a cigarette from.

He happened to walk by the church, was invited in and stumbled upon our two snacks and a drink surprise on Easter. 

Something hit me when he walked by. I don’t know what. Maybe it was that he was young and reminded me of my students. Maybe it was that he looked a little lost and a lot hungry. Definitely it was that God nudge that I sometimes ignore. 

I didn’t ignore the nudge.

He was 20. Went to a local high school. Straight A student freshman and sophomore years. Barely passing after that.

I didn’t know for sure that he was homeless until a young person from the church stopped to talk to him, said he knew him from when HE was homeless. I asked if I could pray with him. Talked about God meets us where we are not where we think we should be. How he uses us in all our brokenness (THANK GOODNESS!).

The boy left church service a few minutes in. I thought he’d skipped out, but he found me after to let me know he’d gotten sick but didn’t leave. He heard the whole message.

I gave him a hug and we talked about dancing because at the end of service a DJ played dub step and the kid was a self-taught dancer. Then I told him I hoped to see him next week and walked away.

And ever since he’s been on my mind–especially with the rain and cold. 

I kind of feel like crying when I think about him. I mean I talked with him, prayed with him, gave him a hug, but then I walked away and went on about life, and he went back to the streets. It’s not enough. But I don’t know what enough is. How many others like him and the other young man from the church are out there? How can we be okay with kids living on the streets? How can we NOT be okay with it? 

I know homelessness is a huge issue, far bigger than my limited past understands. When I naively said something about it being so sad and usually a substance abuse issue, my niece who’s been there said “You’d be surprised,” and I realized I really have no clue and all my suppositions are pointless.

I know an answer. One. God.

And that answer is the only way I can come to terms with the fact that I left church Sunday with that boy walking one way and me headed off to lunch with friends. But even that feels like a cop-out, an easy answer for the teacher who’s building a house and complains that the old house gets hot in the summer but who’s never been hungry or alone or so lost that walking around bumming cigarettes off strangers is the norm. For the Christian who’s all fine and good saying “Be the Jesus to those who don’t know HIm” but then only does so in thimblesfull of hugs and prayers and maybe a donation every once in a while.

The last six weeks I’ve been listening to Colonial preacher JIm Botts about being a Roof Wrecker and for the last year and a half I’ve listened to One Life minister Ronnie Whitfield about the church being Jesus to the lost, out in the community, NOT a building. It’s changed me. Made me see how little I do, how much more God asks from us, how many are searching for something to fill a void and I feel so tiny and so limited by myself.

There’s a great Nooma video about Jesus asking the disciples to take his yoke and what that really means and how it’s still what God asks from us today. I NEVER felt guilty about my lack there until now. 

I’m not sure what the answers are. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Bad Weeks Happen

I am so thankful this week is over and I sure hope next week is better!
It will be because I’m going to wake up every morning and give thanks for the good things, of which there are many.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the teacher who’s on paid administrative leave for her blog where she called students whiny and more. Her name wasn’t on the blog and she didn’t name any students. If the blog was personal, I’m afraid for teachers everywhere. If it was a school blog, shame on her. I don’t know which the case is. If she was blogging on duty, what they heck? How did she have time?!
The thing is, kids are whiny.
But adults are, too. Trust me on this one. I’m a huge whiner at times.
And kids are irresponsible.
But adults are, too. Again, trust me on this one. I can give you examples of my irresponsibility time and again, but I’m not doing it here in a public forum.
The list goes on and on.
KIds have changed. Either that or I’ve gotten older and become the dinosaur talking about “back in the day…”
But expectations on kids have changed.
My students for the most part are over-extended. They do too much. They’re in too many APs. They’re constantly focused on tests and passing them instead of real learning. They have TONS of opinions, but they often can’t defend those positions because they don’t know how. (It’s not on the test, so they don’t know.) Or they do know how because it’s part of the junior AP English test.
Then there’s the whole tech revolution. These kids are constantly plugged in. They don’t know the meaning of true peace and quiet and meditation and aloneness.
If I had been expected to perform on tests, take 4 or more APs, take all the credits needed to graduate, work, and stay in contact with my friends-boyfriend-mom-dad-grandma-aunt susie-teachers-college advisor-scholarship committee, I’m not sure HOW I would’ve done it.
I have a Master’s Degree in English. I loved college. I’d go back now if I could afford classes. But I’m not sure I would’ve survived freshman year without burnout if I were a teenager in today’s schools. That said, I was a solid student but I was NOT a top performer in any subject other than newspaper and writing. I know there are a few top performers in every class, and those kids can do EVERYTHING great. I’ve had those kids in my classes, too, and I love them. But they’re not the norm.
I was a big proponent of TAKS. I loved that it was supposed to be a tougher test that couldn’t be taught. Dumb me. Of course, it could be taught. The testing companies have to sell the test prep materials. I still think TAKS could be a good tool (EOCs too) if used correctly. Use the data. Kids don’t pass? FInd out why. Monitor and adjust constantly, and hold teachers accountable if they have multiple low performing years with kids who should have passed. By hold them accountable, I mean spot checks, portfolios, oversight. That last idea isn’t a big hit with teachers, I know. But we shouldn’t be able to close our doors, do our own thing and only worry about one or two times a year an admin visits to do evaluations. If teachers have great results year after year with students, get them out there teaching the new teachers how to get those results. There’s a teacher I know who gets 100% of her students who actually come to school where they need to be to pass the test even though they’re projected to fail. She’s had those results with these kids since I’ve known her (over 16 years). She should be teaching all of us how to reach at-risk kids.

It’s been a bad week, and I’m glad it’s over. But I still love my job, even the parts that drive me crazy. Today, I shot the Polar Plunge. My school’s Student Council raised around $900 for Special Olympics with a Polar Plunge fundraiser. Students and teachers voted for the faculty they wanted to jump in the pool and the student council had a student team as well. The people in the running and the student team volunteered for this when it was 3 degrees outside. That’s something special. (Crazy! But amazing at the same time.) One of our assistant principals won best costume. It’s times like this that make the bad weeks okay.


A conversation in class

The day after the Haiti earthquake, two of my students were talking about why it wasn’t our job or our business to help out in Haiti.
One of the students in our college ministry is from Haiti, and I’ve heard him give his testimony, so maybe I’m a bit biased, but I couldn’t help but interject how lucky they were to be born wealthy and citizens of the US to parents who loved them.
I’m not sure either of the students understood my point.
After the school day ended, both whipped out their iPhones to check their latest Facebook updates. Facebook they get. The sheer poverty of a country 681 miles from the US, they don’t get it and they don’t care to get it.
Now that CNN is reporting several thousands Americans dead or missing, they care. But until then, they didn’t understand what the big deal was.
They’re not alone.
Their favorite radio personality Rush Limbaugh agrees.
And Pat Robertson says the Haitians have no one to blame but themselves and the devil.
It makes me sad that they don’t care.
Fortunately, others do. Our student council is sponsoring a fundraiser to donate money to the Red Cross. The basketball teams are raising money at their games with Hoops for Haiti. Both efforts have met with success.
I haven’t watched much news since the earthquake. It hurts too much to see the devastation. But while cruising news sites today I saw an amazing story about a Haitian woman still buried in the rubble. She’s stuck, and yet, she’s singing and praising God, thankful that people know she’s there but also happy to know that if she dies, her soul is safe.
That’s an amazing faith. It’s the kind of faith I’ve seen from the young Haitian man in our college class. He explained in our local paper that just waking up and walking outside takes faith in Haiti, even before this new disaster.
Maybe that’s why the boys talking in my class don’t get it. When they wake up they grab some breakfast, jump in their cars and drive to school. Right now, they don’t have to exercise their faith all that much, other than the faith that the AM station carrying Rush will actually come in on any given day. They don’t care because they don’t get it. That’s on us, the adults who let that happen.
We’ve got a lot of work to do.