Tag Archives: yearbook

Meditation Trial and Error: Tales From the Classroom

When I reach the end of my Calm session and the coach says “okay, now if you’re ready, open your eyes…” I’m never ready.

I have a giant class this semester smack dab in the middle of the day. The class that follows is not big, but they are loud and excited about life all the time.

I asked if they wanted to try breathing with the Calm app and they were all in.

So we sat in a circle and closed our eyes and focused on breathing.

About half the class broke after a minute. They couldn’t stop the laughter.

It does feel awkward to sit silently breathing the first few times you meditate. It’s just weird when we’re so used to constant bombardment from a million different directions. So I get it.

A few of us kept breathing, but the kids who laughed got busy working.

We’ve tried a few more times with the same level of success.

Then yesterday hit and the kids sat in a circle breathing, no laughter, no anything other than breath and peace. When I stopped they said “Nooooooo! That was like a minute.”

Nope. 2 minutes 48 seconds.

We made it to 4 minutes and started work.

Y’all, those four minutes were everything.

The stress of the day was gone for me AND for the class. They were so much more focused in their work. And they could not believe how much time had passed.

We don’t meditate every day, and it’s completely optional. The kids said they wished we would make it an everyday exercise.

Maybe we will.

I just really like this new leggings print.

Living Deliberately

Maybe that headline is little too much, but I’m making a point to be a more aware of my time second semester.

It’s super easy to get caught in work and to live in the newsroom. I like it there. It’s fun. I like the kids. We do great work. The students like 80s music and will jump into a dance party on demand. I mean, yeah. It’s AWESOME.

But I need to reclaim my time. And they need to reclaim theirs.

Yes, after school deadlines are part of my world. No, staying after school every day is not healthy, wise or a good lesson for my kids.

So…

I have a signup sheet on the table. If kids need to work after school outside of designated work nights or past the 30 minutes I’m always here, they have to sign up on Monday for the week. They can’t stay after Friday. We’ll see about Saturday mornings. They’re fun but they make the weekend short, and that’s not good for any of us.

This live deliberately goal will require all of us to plan better. It will also encourage us to do more outside the classroom.

I want my room to be vibrant and alive and exciting and fun. But I want us all to be healthy with the time we spend.

We’ll see how it works. 😊👩‍💻👏

An aside: you guys, Quest chips are LCHF heaven.

What I’m Loving: coffee, Diet Dr Pepper, these temperatures, Quest chips, LCHF, our yearbook cover, the scene I just wrote in my WIP, getting all my electrolytes in, the Daily Calm

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

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’

Lessons

Be kind.

Help others.

Event + Response = Outcome

Everyone is just as busy as you are. We all have the same 24 hours.

When you’re feeling down, do for others. It will make you feel better.

When making a parent phone call, put yourself in that parent’s position and ask yourself what you would want to hear.

You can’t take words back.

Don’t speak in anger.

The universe listens and responds.

The Serenity Prayer is real.

The Golden Rule is real.

Say yes more.

Learn to say no.

You do you.

Written goals are better.

Dream big.

Make your own fun.

Perfection is impossible.

Deadlines are deadlines.

A clean desk is possible.

A messy desk isn’t a moral failure.

Ask.

Listen.

Love.

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.)

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!

#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

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!

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!

 

Date Day and Writing

It would be easy to lose myself in a novel over the weekend. But I’m working hard NOT to do that. Today was date day. DH and I went to the Home & Garden show. Awesome this year! We went out to eat and then we watched HOURS of House of Cards Season 2. I’m still stunned with that ending. We finished the day with a little Olympics.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m disappointed with NBC’s decision to air the Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan story tomorrow. It’s the last day of the Olympics. I’d rather see something about the current Olympians. I know Costas, et al. have done several segments throughout the games, but I’d still rather keep the focus on our current athletes. Show the Harding, Kerrigan story next week.
After date day came writing time. Yesterday I wrote my poor heroine into a near death experience. I couldn’t very well leave her there.
I’m really enjoying this draft. I’ve given myself permission to write crap, and there have been a couple days where I wondered what happened to my command of the English language. One day I had to delete more than I kept. I know there will be more of those days. But I’m not thinking too much about that. Instead I’m focusing on how writing some every day gets me closer to the goal of the end.

It’s interesting how the “permission to write crap because you can’t fix a blank page” mentality frees my creativity. I have two amazing young men working on closing copy for the yearbook. One isn’t even in my class, the other is in a non-writing class. Both are known as amazing writers around campus, and they have done a GREAT job with the words, but they’re not quite there yet. They’re not honest enough. I made the guys take the oath Friday. They resisted. They’re used to writing for their English teachers instead of for readers. Sometimes, especially in upper level classes, kids are so focused on getting the words right they don’t realize that getting them wrong first leads to magic later. By 5:22 Friday evening, they understood. I told them to keep notebooks around for the weekend and warned them that inspiration could strike at any moment. It’s going to be interesting to see what they come back with Monday.

Just like it’s going to be interesting to see how many words I have on this novel draft Monday. 🙂

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