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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.

Your role as an adviser: Empower, support, inspire

One of the most difficult parts of advising in high school journalism is helping your student editors move from being just regular high school students to being leaders of publications comprised of their peers. Newer advisers aren’t necessarily used to the adviser role, and may find it challenging to let their students fully take the reigns, and find it even more challenging to watch them struggle with editor-to-staff relationships. Teenagers don’t always come on board with a ton of leadership experience and so the new editors need support and guidance as they navigate their journeys through staff interactions while simultaneously ensuring production deadlines are met. Additionally, teens often struggle with graciously accepting criticism from their editors, whom they often view as peers. If you are a newer adviser, or are struggling with how to best support your staff without micromanaging everything they do, I have a few pieces of advice that have helped me maintain my sanity and feel good about what my students are doing. 


  1. “Let go of the mouse.” Full disclosure – this is not my advice. During an adviser meeting at a Nebraska High School Press Association (NHSPA) fall conference at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln several years ago, Scott Winter was speaking with advisers about their struggles. A few of them mentioned the workload, the worry about quality, the pressures of production, and more. One adviser asked, “What can I do to make this easier?” He responded with “Let go of the mouse.” Meaning, let the students do the work. Let the students make the product. It is their publication and they must be responsible. It’s okay if they make mistakes. In fact, their mistakes are learning opportunities. Whenever I feel that overwhelming need to take over, I remind myself  to “let go of the mouse.” This not only lifts some of the workload off your shoulders, but it also empowers the students to own their work. That empowerment helps all levels of staff to realize that it really and truly is their publication, and not mine, nor that of the administration. 
  2. Support your editors with curricular enrichment. If you come from a school with a rich curriculum for student editors, wonderful! What a good thing for you and your students! However, if you are like many schools across the country, you may not even have a class, let alone a curriculum just for editors. But don’t worry, there are tons of ways you can help your student editors be better leaders. One really good resource that I have used with my student editors is the Student Leadership Challenge. I utilized the book, workbook and leadership inventory. The system focuses around the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, which include model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart. Students ascertain where they start, set goals, apply what they learn, reflect on progress and more. Another source for leadership training are videos by Simon Sinek. At YBKC Balfour Yearbook Camp this year, adviser Samantha Berry (former JEA Rising Star, President of the Texas Association of Journalism Educators)  taught a session on leadership. She used this video from Sinek to explain the idea of “Leaders Eat Last.” Meaning, that good leaders take care of their people and put those they lead first. This is a message that is often difficult for teen leaders because they sometimes operate from the viewpoint of being in control where the editors’ demands have priority over the wishes of the staff. Sinek’s video helps them to understand that their roles are not that of dictators.
  3. Make time for inspiration. Take your editors and staff to conferences and other learning opportunities. As a beginning adviser, I was just overwhelmed with the daily grind. I couldn’t even imagine taking my students anywhere when we were struggling just to produce a publication. But you will be amazed at how going to camps, conferences, etc. energizes your students and gets them excited about what they are doing. These types of trips also gives students ideas, tips, and tricks that they can bring back to the classroom and may even make their lives (and yours) easier in the process. Aside from trips and trainings, take time to bring items like video clips in to help your students. Sometimes they just need a little motivation. Take five minutes at the start of class (or start of your meeting) to give your students a little inspiration. Marty Fetch, an instructor I had from Doane University, called such clips “digital motivators.”  He said that we need to reach the heart before we can teach the mind. In his class and in the JEA Mentoring Program, “Pep Talk” from the Kid President was used as is an example of an inspirational clip. You have probably already seen it, but even so, watch it again. It is still just as powerful. Even if your students have seen it, they will remember it fondly as well. Because who doesn’t like the Kid President? 


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