Tag Archives: walsworth

Yearbook Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yay yearbook!


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

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#YearbookForever

When my first principal called and asked me to take over yearbook, I said no. In my mind, I said a whole lot more than no. Newspaper was part of my soul. I’d grown up revering Walter Cronkite and reading newspapers. I fell in love with journalistic writing in high school when my adviser Mrs. Gillespie introduced me to the wonderful world of UIL and then taught me how to win.

We toured TRN and the people working at paste up with the light boards and glue and tape were so happy. And the smell of ink and paper…ahhhh. Heaven. And the reporters with their cubicles and frenetic pace. And the editor and his big office with the giant conference table for planning the issues. Yes. This was perfection. I’d found my purpose.

But yearbook? No. Just no. It was a bunch of debutantes and cheerleaders and preppy boys. No, thank you. (Former students, stick with me here. There’s a moral to this story.)

The excuse I gave was not so disparaging. I just started my MA, so I wouldn’t have time. No, thank you.

But that principal didn’t take no for an answer. He told me to call a crosstown J adviser I knew from student teaching who advised both programs and who had finished her MA advising both. I called Linda Fain, and she told me I’d be crazy not to do both because teaching English was waaaayyyy more difficult than advising yearbook.

So, cheerleader, debutantes and preppy boys all, I took on the job of yearbook adviser. It took less than a day for me to realize stereotypes suck for a reason. Because yes, yearbook was filled with all those types of kids. Just like newspaper, it was filled with all types of kids period. AND cheerleaders, debutantes and preppy boys were the same kind of wonderful as all the other types of kids out there.

By this time I had three years of newspaper kids, so the program was finally mine. I knew nothing about yearbook, though. I mean NOTHING. I only had one of my high school yearbooks (now one of my biggest regrets). I never thought yearbook was important. I mean it was pretty and all, but it was filled with all the “popular, preppy, pretty” kids so who cared? (Again, stereotypes suck. Man, I had a chip on my shoulder I didn’t even know existed back then.)

My first group of editors taught me the truth about yearbook. Yes, the yearbook is filled with photos of kids who carry the school’s spirit. If they go to everything, they’re in the book more. AND they should be.  BUT the yearbook is so much more. It’s a writing, art and creativity laboratory where kids take the school and transform everything that’s awesome about it into a book format so that those memories last forever. It’s about making an archivable product that people open and say, Holy Cow! This is the best school ever. I want to go there! It’s about telling those stories that last forever in the best way possible: through words, photos or design. It’s about giving the invisible a voice, if they want it, and showing how even though we’re all different, we’re still all Raiders (insert whatever mascot if you’re reading this and not part of Raider Nation). It’s a stereotype breaker, a demanding product that requires hours of time, complete collaboration and thinking outside the box or else it gets redundant, and you don’t want that. It’s on the job training, summer training, fall training and constantly working to get better and better and better. It’s OHMYGOD nerve-wracking because what if people don’t like it?!? It’s a place to learn the thick skin needed when you have the courage to publish your work because GUARANTEED someone WON’T like it. It’s fun and amazing and hard and, dear Jesus, it’s expensive. BUT it’s also so, so priceless.

And it’s a lot like newspaper. Different, but the same.

And I love it.

That chip on my shoulder was smashed to pieces when I took on the yearbook, and I’m a better teacher because of it.

I thought yearbook was fluff. I’ve learned it’s life. It’s the school. It’s forever.

I’m so, so blessed.

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18 yearbooks advised this year. 21 newspapers. #Awesome

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.

District #Journalism Staff Development

MAN, did we have a day.

We have a new to journalism teacher in the district. He’s an amazing writer, but he’s never been on a staff of any sort before. He’s teaching 1 YB, 1 NP, 1 J1 and 4 12th grade English classes.

Whew. That’s a tough schedule.

THANK GOODNESS we have our yearbook rep to help along the way.

We started our day by making sure he knew how important a quality yearbook is to the culture of a school. How it’s the one thing that lasts forever. (See yesterday’s post.) I read him my blog and warned him that I’m a bit of an online narcissist. He laughed, but I think that’s because I scared him.

I told him not to worry. He doesn’t HAVE to carry Duck tape or batteries, and it’ll probably take a few years before the kids accidentally call him dad.

We set up his ladder (It took 4 times because he needed to cut his book by several signatures—GOD I HATE MATH!!!!) and made sure he understood fiscal responsibility with yearbook and why that’s important (MORE MATH!!!!!). I don’t think he hates math, though because he didn’t run screaming from the room.

Our second year adviser at the other high school helped us decide which pages of his school’s book should be cut.

The junior high adviser there (one of my former students), helped too.

I promised him this would be fun once he learned. He’s a writer. And a musician. Super creative. Super smart. Hel-lo. He’s made for advising. If we can get him through this first year.

And we will. Because we work together in this district.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Breaking Through Comfort Zones

“Mrs. Leeeeeeee, I don’t wannaaaaaa. What if my teachers say I can’ttttttttt?”

Here’s the deal. I’ve been accused of picking favorites. Look me up on teacher sites, and you’ll see it. I admitted to the class where a student asked the above question that it’s true. I do pick favorites. Do your work? You’re a favorite. Don’t? You’re not.
Truth. Might be wrong, but it is what it is.
Does that mean I won’t work with you? Nope. Does it mean I’m going to let you skate by being a solid C-D-F student and not jump up and down, tease, cajole, insist, call your parents, make you call your parents while I’m standing there (great idea from a great English teacher), do everything in my power to make you one of my favorites? Nope. If you’re in my class, I don’t plan on letting you skate (unless you bring skates to the room. It’s big enough now to do that.). In fact, if you’re not doing your work, I’m going to make you as uncomfortable as I can. If you’re not doing your work and you’re comfortable in my classroom, I’m not doing my job.
The girl with the above quote? She’s one of my favorites. Most of my students fit that bill.
I’m in the middle of revamping my program. Because of that, I’m pushing kids out of their comfort zones. I figure the above conversation intro will be repeated time and time again over the next six weeks. The next couple weeks we’re touching on photography. We’re using Walsworth’s curriculum and taking it step by step. Step one: Visual Storytelling. I knew she was going to freak when I told all of the students they were doing this. It took six months to get her comfortable with interviewing. If I’d let her sit in front of the computer and design or write editorials and reviews–especially book reviews, she’d be in HEAVEN. But I wouldn’t be doing my job.
So I made her take the photos and narrow them down to 5-7 to tell a story. She has to have a lead image, variety and a closer.
I’m gone to Regionals tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what she has when I get back. And if she still needs to do the work, I know I can get her to do it when I’m back. Because she’s that kid. She wants to do a good job. She CAN do a good job. But she’s afraid.
She’s afraid of people looking at her while she’s holding the camera, of teachers telling her to put the camera away, of doing the work wrong, of doing something she really has no idea how to do because my instructions after an overview of visual storytelling were pretty general: Find a Rider story and tell it photographically.
She wants specifics. And she wants to hide. And she wants to be comfortable.
Not going to happen.
And when we’re done, maybe not this time–or the next–or the next, but before she leaves my program, she’ll have learned how to get out of her comfort zone. How when you walk into a room sure of yourself and your mission, people generally let you go about your business, especially when you have a press pass.
And while I’m teaching her and the other kids in my program, I’m teaching myself the same thing.
Because once upon a time, I WAS AFRAID. I didn’t want to be noticed. I was afraid of failure and wanted to be left alone in the world of newspaper and yearbook advising, and I didn’t want to worry about other technology or education reform or campus leadership. Once upon a time the only people who knew my thoughts and feelings were close friends. But a good teacher friend of mine who taught debate and WFISD’s Leadership Cohort changed me.
And if I don’t get her out of HER comfort zone, I’m letting that old me come back into the picture. Not going to happen.

I Hope I’m Still Feeling This Way Tomorrow!

I love my job. I love my kids. I think teenagers are the most creative beings in the universe.
When the kids first said they wanted to do a black light/maze distribution, my immediate reaction was…WHAT the heck?! Followed quickly by No. But the long-time adviser in me remembered the kids are in charge…in this. This is their book, and they know what they want. So, instead of what I was thinking, I said, “you figure out a way to make it work…” I was thinking there was no way they would do it. Too much work. End of the year. No way.
I. Was. Wrong. It took until the very last minute today, but they did it. We had a black light maze distribution night for seniors. And tomorrow, we’ll have a black light maze distribution day for the rest of the school. If the seniors are any indication, the kids will LOVE it. The maze fits, because it keeps kids moving, and the theme is Perpetual Motion. The black lights work because the cover is a marbl-y white and gold, and it looks cool.
And one of the ad girls brought white balloons that look cool under the light, too.
I’m so proud of my kids. They’ve done an awesome job. I can’t wait for tomorrow!