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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.

4 Qualities of an Effective Adviser

What now?

In the early parts of my career, I didn’t quite know where to start. After all, there are way too many directions to choose from. Writing? Take your pick: features, hard news, soft news, columns, reviews, sports, humor, profiles. Design? Photography? Video? Editing? News Literacy? Website creation? Alternative story forms? Interactives? Social Media?

The list is exhausting. And for a while, I felt desperate to prove that I knew what I was doing and that I was qualified to advise a publication.

However, perhaps the most liberating (and risky) realization to come to is that I found myself in a field where I was never going to be fully up-to-date and in the know. How much has it evolved since I started? The days of PageMaker and long after-school hours counting picas seem like artifacts as my students and I figure out new widgets and how to embed interactive elements on our webpage.

And, the thing is, it’s not like media or story-telling or information-sharing has arrived or plateaued. That’s become more of a comfort to me. Oh, I’ll never have it all mastered, so I’ll guess I’ll just try to stay somewhat up-to-date and impress all the non-journalism folks in my school with new ways to tell stories and share content. 

When opportunities like CSJ’s Advising Institute present themselves, heck yeah I’m interested. Sharing a week of learning with 22 other teachers who are in the same boat, navigating similar waters, felt validating. I found that while we all brought different styles and personalities to the table, a few common elements emerged:


  • A Curious Mind: Journalism advisers (the good ones at least) are life-long learners. You can’t stay relevant or useful to your students if you have been on auto-pilot. While some things remain constant, a lot of it has evolved. And the good teachers will continue to adapt by seeking out different, changing ways to meet the needs of our students, our community, our nation, and our world.


  • Humility: Admitting to my students that I don’t always know the answer has provided great learning opportunities. The irony with this one is that you have to be confident in your admission that you don’t know. And that’s ok. Because if they can figure it out, they can teach you. Or you can learn it together. Or better yet, task them with learning it and teaching it to the rest of the class.


  • A Sense of Humor: The job is tough. The stakes are high to get it right. Making mistakes can have big consequences. The skills that we are tasked with teaching our students matter in the big picture of life. Our classrooms often look like a circus. What the heck has Tommy even been doing for the past three weeks? I have no idea. You to be able to laugh, or otherwise it will overwhelm you.


  • Plugged In: Any expertise, know-how, or sense that I’m not alone has come from getting involved in professional organizations and communities that exist to support and empower those who adviser publications. Attending events or meetings of my state scholastic press association was my first step. How’d I even know they existed? The previous adviser used to take the class to their fall conference, so I did too. I currently run the summer yearbook contest. Do I know much about yearbook? I’m certainly no expert, but I can organize entries, ship them off, email, and print certificates. For years, I never felt confident enough to present at our student conference, but I can put together an adviser’s folder of resources like nobody else (after 10 years of doing it!) My local press association connected me to the larger Journalism Education Association (leading me to pursue my CJE and, hopefully soon, my MJE), and an advertisement in their magazine led me to see an advertisement for Kent State’s online graduate program (leading me to pursue my Master’s degree). All of this from going on one field trip as a new adviser. Want to start simple? Join the “Journalism Teachers” Facebook group to test the waters. 


For me, the passion took several years to develop. I didn’t feel it immediately. I dabbled in publications in high school and college, but never saw myself evolving into the First Amendment, student expression advocate I am today. Who knew I had it in me? Certainly not the supervisor who needed a journalism teacher, so they asked the new girl. I see the potential in my students though, and I am committed more than ever to ensure that they realize it in themselves as well.


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