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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.

This Student Journalism Stuff is Tough!

Every time I attend any sort of PD, I’m reminded what students go through every day. School is exhausting—even just passively absorbing information, and especially if the instructor is not a good match for the students’ learning needs. I begin to understand why my students’ attention might start drifting toward their phone or an open browser window. (Don’t even get me started on the stress that accompanies where to sit if there’s a lunch break.) I try to keep these reflections in my mind when I’m in front of a classroom. Doing so makes me a better teacher.

As I prepared for, attended, and completed assignments for the CSJ Advising Workshop, I was reminded of what student journalists, specifically, go through. As advisers, we ask a lot of them.

For example, even though I have a steady trickle of story ideas during the school year and wonder why my students struggle with their own, I had a tough time coming up with ones for the workshop—and I worked in professional newsrooms prior to advising. I’m sure summer brain is partially to blame, but I’m going to remember this during pitch meetings this year.

On a related note, I often find myself asking if students read through their work before submitting it. And then I made my first blog post for the workshop. I had to revise it multiple times after publishing. It’s easy to get all high and mighty when it’s your job to review someone else’s work.

Creating content with new digital tools also forced me to see things from my students’ perspective. Despite not being able to figure out SnapChat, I consider myself a relatively techy person, but the learning curve on Flourish was a little steeper than I expected. (On the bright side, I was able to apply that lesson about editing before publishing.) I never claim to be an oracle with all the answers, so I’m not afraid to tell students to explore learning a new tool (or even figure out something in the Adobe suite) on their own. This was a good reminder of what I’m asking them to do when I say that. It can be a frustrating experience to try something for the first time!

Imagine if I had been expected to conduct the interviews I require my students to do. This introvert would’ve faced yet another challenge.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to start asking less of student journalists. They still have to do interviews, edit their work, come up with story ideas, and try new things on their own. However, I hope that by reflecting on what these experiences are like for me, I can provide better guidance as young journalists tackle these challenges and be more empathetic when they fall short of expectations.

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