Whether you volunteered or an administrator or students begged you to take on this position, advising a newspaper, website, broadcast program or yearbook will likely be one of the toughest classes you’ll ever have. But it will be the most rewarding one, too.
There are constant deadlines that your students need to meet (yes, even yearbook has deadlines in the fall semester). You might be criticized by staff and administrators for the work your students produce; either because they don’t agree with the students’ product or there are errors in their work. But one thing you and the adults need to remember is that these are students and not professionals, so their work isn’t perfect. Journalism is a learning process for students.
Your classroom will likely seem chaotic when visitors stop by. But what they will see if they approach students is that it’s a controlled chaos where each student is working independently and engaged in their task, whether it’s brainstorming, setting up interviews, editing photos or video, designing pages or writing scripts.
These journalism classes will be the ones that students remember the most and get the most out of them. They will learn many skills that they probably would not learn in other courses. They learn to work collaboratively as a group and hold each other responsible since it requires teams of writers, photographers, designers and editors to produce a newspaper or yearbook spread. They will learn to be respectful and behave maturely since they are representing the particular publication and the school.
They will learn a variety of 21st Century skills: from writing concisely for a variety of audiences, to producing videos to learning the elements of designing to create pages or websites. Students will also learn to post responsibly on social media in order to share their work with others.
If you take students to competitions (and you should), they will create a closer bond with classmates and you, too. The students will beam with pride when one of their photos, stories or videos is recognized during competitions. During our June 2014 graduation ceremony, the Opinion Editor wore a JEA Superior medal he won for a PSA video he and a classmate created for their video production class, which is taught by another teacher. I’m sure he will hold on to that medal forever as a symbol of the hours he dedicated to his journalism courses and the friendships he developed.