Tag Archives: newspaper

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!

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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.

*****

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

 

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.

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

Trying Something New #edtech #MyWANA

21st-century-learning-wordleYou know that moment you hit play on the presentation you spent HOURS working on and the technology doesn’t work? I’m hoping I don’t see that today-Saturday in the newspaper classes I’m teaching. Fingers crossed.

I’m going paperless.

The classes include youtube clips and hyperlinks to stories and discussion points. I’m using Edmodo for assignments and twitter for questions. (THANK YOU MyWANAs and Kristen Lamb. I’m taking your twitter lessons and applying them to my day job, too!) In my mind this is the best thing ever. I mean I can stand up at the front of the class and say “Like Stephen King says, if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write,” OR I can click the play button and Stephen King can say it plus some. I know which of those I’d rather see. 🙂

I’ve used video clips in my classes at school for a full semester. My students told me they LOVED that part of the class. Hopefully the kids at camp will, too. And hopefully they’ll like that they can access the Keynote complete with clips and links via Edmodo. PLUS there’s no way I can cover everything in the few hours I see them, so I’ve included several other folders of information I use in the classroom.

I’ll let you know how it goes. #

Dead Girl Walking

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

Lesson 5,000,012

teacherdeskI saw his name on my roll sheets and groaned. See, he’d spent a semester with me the year before explaining how he was switching schools and talking about yearbook and how much he wanted to be on staff. BUT it was a lot of talk. A lot. In fact, it was about ten (million) times more talk than actual work. On top of that he’d earned a trip to the alternative campus. And his writing…I don’t have the words to explain.

So, yeah, I saw his name and groaned. I even took out my shiny new red pen (thank you, Office Depot) and crossed his name off the list then started to take it to the guidance office to say “No way.”

But as I started out the door I remembered my decision to give any kid who wanted to try staff, who agreed to the contract terms including after school lab time, a chance.

Day 1: He shows up to class excited and ready to work. I tell him he can stay “on probation.”

Day 2: He asks to switch to newspaper. (much internal groaning commenced, but smile stayed firmly in place as I said, “suuuuure,” all the while thinking yeah, right.)

Day 3: He asks to take photos also because he kind of stinks at writing. (acknowledging the problem is the first step to fixing the problem)

Day 10: He decides photography won’t work. It takes too much time outside of class.

Day 15: He turns in first draft. On time.

Day 16: He frowns when I say open the draft so we can talk. But goes to work right away looking for professional examples of stories like the one he’s trying to write.

Days 17-40: New draft every other day. Editor works with him, encouraging, cheering him on, telling him to get buys and stop talking.

10 drafts in he submits a publishable story. It’s awesome. We add two drafts to our presets for him, but he gets it done. We high five and I tell him he’s earned the prize for most revisions ever, an award as impressive in my mind as best story ever.

Day 60: Next story in. Another multi-draft work. Another great job.

Day 77: He finishes his page in the magazine before anyone else.

He’s done more work than this, but these are the high points. These are the points that retaught me the lesson about expectations and the importance of “want to.”

It’s been a great year. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of all of my kids. And I’m ready for a break!

Two days and counting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

I did WHAT instead of going to the gym?!

One of my students wrote an amazing column for the last paper of the year about her constant truancy. She likes school. Likes her teachers. Loves her friends. But when it comes time to get out of bed, she just can’t make herself. When I read her story, it resonated with me. Only my truancy applies to the gym. I love a great cardio workout, I enjoy classes and time on the elliptical. I haven’t eaten sugar since the end of Spring Break. It’s getting to the gym that’s the problem. I love it once I’m there, but making myself go is torture. I mess with my shoes and my audible account and check Facebook one last time and do dishes or vacuum or call my mom. Until this week I put off the gym for over six months. Then this week happened and I had two great days, one crazy day where going to the Y was out of the question, and then yesterday, the day I chose to do laundry and clean the bathroom instead of making my way to the gym (possibly an all-time low). Today, I made myself go. I opened tweet deck, checked Facebook, played Bejeweled Blitz, ran (no, not that kind of run) up to the school, played with grand doggy, watched Gossip Girl (the Darota Wedding, totally worth it), finally made myself get in the car, realized I didn’t have the book I’m listening to on my iPhone, went back inside to download Insurgent by Veronica Roth because I HAVE to listen to something if I’m on the elliptical, and FINALLY made it to the Y. It’s a miracle. I’m tired just writing about everything I did before going.

Once I was there, I loved it. I love the way my heart races and how after 40-45 minutes of cardio I feel like I can really breathe. I love the way my shirt gets sweaty and I look like an athlete even though I’m the least athletic person I know. I love the smell of the anti-bacterial spray we use to wipe down the machines and the sound of weights from the room next door. I love the Y. And still, I know tomorrow I’ll put it off, dreading the moment I make myself get in the car. It makes no sense.

Maybe if I can figure it out, I can help my truant students, too.

Don’t forget Dead Girl Walking by Elizabeth Lee, new this month. Guardian Angel training’s a tough gig. One wrong step and someone dies.

Order it here!