Pages Navigation Menu

A free summer seminar for experienced high school journalism advisers

From the 23 teachers who attended this workshop in July 2019, we have included Solutions Journalism Story Ideas, other Story Ideas for a whole range of topics and Tech Examples of something they learned, many of these for data visualization, plus some resources anyone can use in the future for these topics.

Embracing discomfort: How risking failure makes us, and our students, better

I’m really bad at being bad at things. When I suck at something, I avoid it. I try to find a way out of it. Sometimes I toil away at it secretly hoping to become brilliant and then to present my newly acquired skill publicly for all to admire. But secret toiling is not a lot of fun, so it doesn’t last long.

My student journalists are bad at being bad at things, too.

They would much rather do the thing they already know how to do than try something new and risk failure, or worse, humiliation. Plus, it’s way easier to keep doing the things you already do the way you’ve always done them, right?

As a person, I know that discomfort is, well, uncomfortable. But as a teacher, I know that discomfort is necessary to growth. It’s part of that ed-speak term “productive struggle.” We have to feel a little uncomfortable to grow, to get better, to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I tried to remind myself of that this morning as I reflected on an afternoon workshop on 360 video that left me thinking, “If we can’t figure this out, how on Earth will my kids?”

As I process all of the new things I want to share with them, I’m also thinking about how to make it accessible for them. Here are some initial thoughts:

360 video: Show them a few examples, then ask them to brainstorm interesting places/moments that most readers don’t get to see or experience. Think about how we might use this tech to take them there.

Audience engagement: Use a day at the beginning of the year to plan multi-platform coverage of a planned news event during the year. Brainstorm stories for before, during and after, and tie those stories to the best tools to tell them.

Building relationships: Brainstorm ways to show readers what we do. Strategize how to use social media effectively to share more about the process behind the scenes.

Data and Flourish: Give them a dataset that’s relevant to them (senior survey results from last year, for example). Challenge them to find stories in the data and create visualizations that tell those stories.

In the process of taking the new skill/tool/strategy and thinking about how I might present it to my students, it becomes a lot less… uncomfortable. So I guess that’s the takeaway here. Embrace the feeling of confusion, of impossibility, the sense that it’s all just out of reach. It’s my job to push my kids, to get them to struggle productively, and that means presenting them with new challenges and nudging them in the right direction.

In order to do that, I’m going to have to take risks and feel a little discomfort, too, and that’s a good thing.

468 ad