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    The Journey to Teaching High School Journalism in Texas

    by Angela Washeck
    July 17, 2014
    Photo by Penn State College of Education on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

    For most of us, high school was so long ago that we can hardly remember what we were taught and couldn’t even guess what high school students are learning today.

    Recently, I decided to pursue a teaching certificate in high school journalism and saw quickly what secondary students are learning in their journalism classes, mainly including a hodgepodge of writing and photography skills designed to help produce a yearbook. Today’s high school journalism curriculum, at least in the Lone Star State, indicates a vast digital deficit and a lack of focus that I believe sets young journalists back. Through my own journey to become a high school journalism educator, I learned what to do — but more importantly, what I would do differently.

    "In a journalism space where social media, mobile journalism and video content prevail, state curriculum isn’t doing students favors by ignoring new technologies."

    THE PROCESS

    The first thing I needed to do was seek out alternative certification programs. In Texas, educators either pursue a teaching certificate while in college, alongside majoring in the content area they intend to teach, or they get “alternatively” certified. This option is for those who have been working in the real world and later decide teaching is direction they want to go. My program, Texas Teachers, laid out clear expectations (and collects a hefty fee) for admission to and completion of the curriculum. Quickly, I learned the process would be time-consuming and expensive. The entire program costs a little over $4,000, although Texas Teachers students aren’t required to pay that back until they have been hired at a Texas school. But, the criteria for completing alternative certification consist of three main objectives: finish several hours worth of online training (there’s an in-person option, but my career as a full-time freelance writer wasn’t conducive to that kind of constraint), pass at least one certification exam (I opted to take the Journalism and English Language Arts exams to make myself more marketable) and complete 30 hours of in-class observations.

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    THE CERTIFICATION EXAM

    I had been practicing journalism full-time since college graduation. Surely, I would be able to ace this exam without much study or practice. But with respect to my usual tendencies to over prepare and obsess over minute details, I studied anyway – both state-issued, public test manuals and independently produced test prep documents.

    What I found was that I felt grossly unprepared because the journalism (for grades 8-12) exam has very little to do with what a primarily digital journalist does on a daily basis. To some degree, the competency expectations make a lot of sense. Like most other certification exams in the state, questions skew heavily toward behavioral, “what would you do?” questions, with content knowledge taking somewhat of a backseat. Still, situational questions require actual subject area knowledge. In general, high school journalism educators in Texas are expected to know the following, according to the TExES Preparation Manual:

    • The historical development of journalism in the United States
    • Legal and ethical principles relevant to journalistic media
    • How to gather information using journalistic research, interviews and news judgment
    • How to produce various forms of journalism and develop that skill in students
    • Principles, procedures and techniques of photojournalism
    • Principles, elements, tools and techniques of publication design and how to develop that skill in students
    • Principles, procedures and techniques of broadcast journalism and how to develop that skill in students
    • The economics of student publications and how to teach business management
    • How to advise and mentor students, encourage collaborative skills and work with others in the school and community
    The test’s biggest strength is probably its photojournalism and design section. Photo by Kevin Tostado on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

    The test’s biggest strength is probably its photojournalism and design section. Photo by Kevin Tostado on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

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    Now, I am not at all claiming that the above skills aren’t valuable and legitimate. Certainly, it is vital for budding journalists to know the significance of the John Peter Zenger case, how to recognize modern-day yellow journalism, copyright information in the digital age and basic elements of design. Students as young as high school freshmen should also have experience figuring out the costs associated with producing a small newspaper and how to account for fluctuating advertising revenues, as those simple economic lessons translate to a promising but nonetheless unpredictable digital news business model.

    The test, though, whose competencies reflect the content journalism teachers are expected to teach, is not current or especially relevant, and it’s a far cry from the state of current university-level journalism education. The test’s biggest strength is probably its photojournalism and design section, which requires that teachers know the uses of digital imagery and principles of basic composition.

    Not all students who enter college journalism programs are coming from high school newspaper classes or staffs (myself included), but high school journalism class serves as a foundation for many young writers and photographers. I am not saying either that high school journalism teachers aren’t knowledgeable or capable of developing a more digital-first curriculum at the school or classroom level. In many schools, they have complete freedom, and in some high schools, journalism instructors are choosing to forgo the print newspaper and go all online.

    My observation is simply that we live in a digital world, where journalists are expected to excel technologically regardless of print success. Texas high school journalism educator standards outline old-school tenets that don’t paint an accurate picture of what defines today’s media industry. In a journalism space where social media, mobile journalism and video content prevail, state curriculum isn’t doing students favors by ignoring new technologies. Yes, large state bureaucracies tend to move slowly in updating curriculum, but teachers who go above and beyond the assigned standards would find ways to integrate these technologies into classroom instruction.

    THE CLASSROOM OBSERVATIONS

    Thirty hours of classroom observations found me both encouraged and taken aback by the role of a high school journalism instructor. The Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area is a collection of some fantastic and some abysmal school districts, but my goal was to find the best district and the best journalism teacher in the area to observe. After asking around and securing credentials, I arrived for my first day of classroom observations.

    This instructor spent time teaching the difference between good and bad typography and design in her journalism classes, and assigned a photo essay to each student in her photojournalism sections. What surprised me was that the end goal for the photo essay was for students to be able to design a solid yearbook layout. Similarly, the teacher’s examples for good and bad typography were drawn from bad yearbook layouts, and the students take Journalism I or Photojournalism in order to sign up for yearbook class the next year. The problem is, there’s no yearbook in the journalism world. Sure, some skills transfer. Writing cutlines, editing photos, penning headlines and of course, writing stories for the yearbook offer students good practice for a potential journalism career. This district is high-income, and they use nice equipment, including Adobe Photoshop.

    High school journalism instructors emphasize producing the yearbook. Photo by Skokie Public Library on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

    High school journalism instructors emphasize producing the yearbook. Photo by Skokie Public Library on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

    Still, I observed a general absence of comprehensive teaching. Students, no matter their age, want to know, “Why am I learning this?” Part of being a great teacher is communicating at every stage of the learning process: what you’re going to learn, how you’re going to learn it, and then how that learning will be assessed. The instructor is terrific with her students and indeed taught them how to create a solid photo essay.

    However, I wish the goal was becoming great journalists – not designing a yearbook layout. I was most discouraged by the emphasis journalism instructors must give the yearbook. It is, by far, the biggest project the students and the teachers face annually – more than producing the newspaper and in this high school’s case, their online news product. She told me that they quit posting stories to the website in March because they were behind on finishing the yearbook though school let out in June. To me, the yearbook is an important, tangible legacy but shouldn’t be supreme. The answer, I suppose, is to ensure your lessons for yearbook class paint a larger picture of journalistic ethics, design, writing and photography. Then, I wonder: what will happen when students quit buying high school yearbooks altogether? How will high school journalism education change?

    FINDING A JOB AS A HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM TEACHER

    I’ll say it as simply as I can: nailing down a job as a full-time journalism teacher is hard. Even in a state the size of Texas and in an area of the state where many school districts have ample funding, most high schools have only one journalism adviser position available. If it’s a larger school, there may be two advisers – one who is focused on the newspaper, whether print or online or both, and one who handles the yearbook. People jump on jobs as soon as they are posted, if they aren’t filled via personal connections before then.

    My dream job would be to develop my own curriculum at the district level for a high school digital journalism class. I imagine it would be a softball version of what a freshman J-school student might see in a Digital Reporting 101 course, combining traditional reporting skills with digital video, social media, graphics and maybe even some data. My suspicion is that if students get a high school journalism education that paints a clear picture of what they can expect career wise, they will be more passionate about the possibilities. Right now, many see “journalism” through a narrow lens, not realizing that it comprises much more than creating a book of memories.

    Much like the “real world” of journalism, the future of high school journalism ed is unclear. But as increasingly more high schools move to career and technology education-oriented programs, my hope is that the curriculum for the journalism and communications industries would be broadened. In the meantime, I’m now a certified Texas journalism educator, but until I have an opportunity to change what’s being taught, I may be better off as an outsider.

    Angela Washeck is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas. She is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a journalism minor. Angela also writes for MediaBistro’s 10,000 Words blog and TexasMonthly.com, and she once interned with the TV newsmagazine “Dan Rather Reports.” Her work has been republished on Editor & Publisher, the American Press Institute and more. When Angela is not busy with PBS MediaShift work, you can find her watching “How I Met Your Mother” reruns, watching Aggie football and attending indie/folk concerts in Dallas. Follow her @angelawasheck.

    Tagged: high school high school newspapers journalism education journalism educators teaching high school
    • JRMohn

      Though Washeck writes well, her implications that Texas journalism students working on a yearbook and not learning today’s digital journalism skills somehow negates their training misses the point. In the first place, today’s professional “real world” of journalism will have changed drastically when today’s high school students enter it six or seven years from now. Even if today’ students could be taught those skills, the students would find themselves six years behind the new “real world” as they enter it.

      Working on the school yearbook is not designed as training to become a professional journalist. It is a project that provides a fantastic learning experience for students in decision making, fact checking, leadership, cooperation, team work, dedication, time management, and responsibility. Students who work on student publications are forced to dig deeply into themselves and use as much of their previous education as possible and increase their knowledge about things that had never interested them before. They learn how to work with others. In fact, high school and newspaper classes historically have provided students extra motivation to learn in all academic areas, so much so that there seems to be a correlation between increased ACT and SAT test scores and high school journalism experience.

      Basically, criticizing a high school yearbook classroom because it doesn’t create students capable of working as today’s journalism professionals is similar to criticizing a high school Spanish class because those students who complete it cannot converse like native speakers or a high school chemistry class because the students cannot compete with graduate chemical engineers.

      • Angela Washeck

        Hi there! Thanks for your thoughtful comment and for reading! I don’t mean to denigrate high school yearbook programs at all. I certainly see the value in students being involved in these programs and appreciate your stat about higher test scores. I think the same could be said about students involved in lots of other fine arts programs, too, which I was! I’m simply reporting what I have observed through this process. I’m sure that there are no two journalism programs that look exactly alike, either.

        I, however, don’t buy into the “there’s no point in teaching digital stuff because it will be old news in a few years” argument. I would hate to think that my attitude as a teacher would ever be “what’s the point?” There are digital skills such as social media ethics, data visualization and video editing, whose processes may change a bit with the times but will always be important skills, just like learning editorial judgment and foundational writing skills will never go out of style. I just think we could do better :)

        • JRMohn

          Angela,
          Thanks for taking the time to reply to my initial comment. After scrolling through the responses to your article, I have to agree with most of them.

          Though it is difficult for a person to reconsider a position she has taken publicly, and though you say this is only a blog, because it was presented on WINN web sight, it somehow comes across as a legitimate criticism of all journalism programs in Texas.

          Clearly, you should now be reconsidering your position.

          On the other hand, several people seemed to imply that you would not make a good journalism teacher. I think they are wrong. Most good journalism teachers I have known over the past 45 years have been aggressive and somewhat dissatisfied with the status quo. They tend to be student oriented. They also tend to be somewhat egotistic. And, yes, I have been high school and a college teacher, the owner of my own newspaper, and an international consultant to Indonesian newspapers. Big Ego.

          But the most important quality for good publication advisers is a concern for the students and a desire to assist them to become more productive people after they leave your class.

          Keep that in mind, and you will do well.

    • Margie M. Raper

      Reading this made me very upset with some of the implications. I am a Texas A&M journalism grad, former journalist and Texas high school publication adviser. I am also a member of state journalism organizations ILPC, TAJE along with ATPI and JEA.

      I had to remind myself this is a column on a blog. It based on the writer’s observation and limited research, so it is a simply a snapshot of one person’s experience and not a reflection of Texas journalism education. Washeck said herself that no two programs are alike in the comment section but did not necessarily address that point in her column.

      I would like to invite Washeck to the Texas Association of Journalism Educators fall convention and workshop on October 25-27 in San Antonio to get a more thorough image of Texas high school journalism education, advisers who are leading the charge, and student journalists in action.

      • Angela Washeck

        Hi Margie! Thanks for your comments and invitation to TAJE. I’m sure I would learn a lot from that event. I am also an Aggie, and a very proud one! :) You’re right — this is certainly a column. Just a conglomeration of my observations during this process. I think it’s presented that way, too. The certification exam addresses the uniform standards for TX high school journalism, which does paint a larger picture about state journalism ed. Again, I don’t want to minimize the hard work of instructors or students! Honestly, I believe the fault is with the curriculum, at the very highest level — not with teachers or students. I think I fairly communicated that great teachers work really hard to teach their kids digital concepts, and that no two programs look alike:

        “I am not saying either that high school journalism teachers aren’t knowledgeable or capable of developing a more digital-first curriculum at the school or classroom level. In many schools, they have complete freedom, and in some high schools, journalism instructors are choosing to forgo the print newspaper and go all online.”

        Anyway, thanks for reading! I see you teach in the Dallas area and would love to meet sometime.

        • Margie M. Raper

          Thank you for the reply.

          Now I have more behind the scenes information to this column and the wrath of Texas scholastic journalism is upon you, I would recommend you write a follow-up column, or a series because this can you opened is a big one.

          (Which I would assume might be relevant considering the Section Sponsor “MediaShift received a grant from the Knight Foundation to revamp its EducationShift section to focus on change in journalism education.
          It is extending the conversation started by Eric Newton’s “Searchlights and Sunglasses,” a resource for journalism educators.”)

          The issues you wrote about would be better addressed by the unnamed bureaucracy you mentioned – the Texas Education Agency. The out-of-date curriculum state standards (or TEKS) come from TEA. Please take your questions to them. Texas journalism advisers would love to hear their response.

          I do not know a Texas journalism adviser out there who use the TEKS as their only curriculum. TEKS are a basic foundation, but they are not the framework of what we build in our journalism programs. I, like several of my adviser friends, spend my own time, money and resources to stay current with my education so that I may develop my own curriculum that relevant, timely and will best prepare my students for whatever is next.

    • Alyssa Boehringer

      I agree with Margie that if you attended one of our state conventions, you’d be blown away by the student produced journalism you’d see – even in a yearbook (OK, especially in a yearbook).

      Please don’t look at the state standards as a reflection of what we do. Look at the stories our students tell.

      • Angela Washeck

        Hi Alyssa,
        Thanks for your comment. Like I said, the teaching at your school is fantastic – which is why I specifically chose to observe there. I think there is a problem with what the state has outlined. I hold the work of journalism teachers and students very highly and never stated otherwise! Personally, teaching about the yearbook isn’t my cup of tea. It could be that I never did it in high school, or just that I don’t see how that experience really translates to a career in journalism. As the first commenter said, maybe it doesn’t even need to. I have no doubt that work around the state is exceptional – I observed the students I saw to be engaged, hard working and intelligent. The question is simply whether the state is preparing them for digital journalism, not whether they can tell stories or write or take photos or put together a yearbook.

        • Alyssa Boehringer

          Thanks for your reply.

          Perhaps since I exclusively teach digital journalism, I’ve taken your comments too personally. I feel my class prepares students for a variety of careers, including journalism. And I realize you never observed my class so I wouldn’t expect you to know that.

          But I want to leave you with one more thought:

          If you are this concerned with the state of Texas scholastic journalism, please reconsider your decision not to teach.
          I’d love to read a post from you after you’ve taught for a year.

    • Kelly Juntunen

      I’m profoundly disappointed in this column. Alyssa and Margie (my journalism teacher colleagues), were more eloquent than I can be.

      Angela, you missed the point. And in the process you were hurtful to an amazing mentor teacher and insulted a strong alliance of journalism teachers.

      We do this because we love kids. We love journalism, too. Our products just happen to be yearbooks mostly. I have a hard time understanding how putting skills into practice via a yearbook isn’t beneficial. How providing opportunities for students to interview, write, photograph and design isn’t as real-world as it gets.

      Spending paragraphs criticizing a teacher’s methods and then blaming it on the state doesn’t take away the sting.

      Teaching ANYTHING is about the kids. If you’re hung up on a guideline from the state on minimums of what should be taught in a classroom, you’ve missed the point.

      • Elisabeth Stone Brooke

        In any educational setting, authentic products are incredibly important. For a high school student, what could be more authentic than a yearbook?

    • Oh, Angela, the stories I could tell you. I’ll start with my own.
      I never planned on being a yearbook adviser. In my mind yearbook wasn’t journalism. It was a bunch of cheerleaders, preppy kids and a few debutantes thrown in for fun.
      When I was asked to take over the yearbook program at my school, I did so reluctantly. I’m a newspaper girl. Yearbook was fluff.
      It took one day for me to see how wrong I was about what I thought to be the truth of the yearbook class. It took a few more years for me to realize how important yearbook is.
      The yearbook IS the high school in book format. When people want to know what was going on fifty years ago in a school, they interview students who were there, and they pick up a copy of the yearbook. The yearbook paints a more realistic picture. Memories cloud over time, but the stories and photos on those pages last forever.
      I realize you didn’t mean to imply yearbook wasn’t important. There’s that crazy thing about words, though. They do sometimes imply something not intended, and as a yearbook teacher who has to fight every year to keep her program alive, I definitely read that in your column.
      That said, and hurt feelings aside, I have to say your few hours of observation could not begin to help you understand how high school journalism prepares a student for the digital world today. In fact, I’d be comfortable making the assertion that high school journalism, yearbook included, prepares students more for the digital world than any other program in the school.
      Look at any 21st century skill set, and you will see time and again the skills taught in the high school newsroom.
      Students in the newsroom learn the difference between fact and opinion, they collaborate, they problem solve, they write, revise and write more. They know how to use hashtags professionally and can code everything from their personal tumblrs to WordPress for their publications. They know design for the page and for online. Currently paper is the best way to tell the yearbook story. That will change, but we’re not there yet. Still, programs are starting to use Digital Editions, the same program used by top magazines in the world,…if they have the funding to be on Creative Cloud. Students in the high school newsroom understand grids, which means they get geometry in a way other students don’t. They understand the reality of working in massive chaos and getting the work done anyway on a deadline. They take, at a minimum, seven other classes and still get the work done, and often that work surpasses what is seen in the professional press. They get the work done even though they work outside of school, are involved in numerous other extra-curriculars. And did I mention their writing skills? They know how to shoot photos and video, create their own music, write a script, interview for real answers, put the whole thing together and post it within a few hours. They start with a blank page and build layouts that capture the year perfectly so that twenty years from now someone can sit down, open a book and say, This. This I remember. They can sit across from the parent of a fellow student who committed suicide and talk to them about their child in away that is empathetic and real. They can stand outside a classroom with the kid who made the State winning touchdown and talk to him about what that meant.
      High school journalism isn’t just yearbook, but thank God it includes yearbook.
      Every year journalism teachers across the state lose their jobs because someone in administration decides their jobs aren’t important. That the yearbook no longer matters. They send them to the English classroom or the Digital Media classroom, and when that happens students miss out. Ultimately, the school misses out.
      The 21st century classroom isn’t about teaching “This is how and why you do this.” The 21st century classroom is about teaching students to think and problem solve and collaborate and try and try and try until they get it right. It’s about fearless learning. Those skills are invaluable. They can get the textbook knowledge from google.
      The 21st century teacher gets their students ready for the 21st century world. And they do it in a whirlwind of classes and testing. Testing like your certification test. The test is old. It’s actually undergoing a change right now. By the time that change comes out, the new information will be dated. It’s the digital world, and information changes constantly. The certification test cannot change regularly. Nor does it need to. Passing the test is a step to becoming a great adviser, but it’s the tiniest of steps. Doing it once, surviving, and doing it again is how you become a great adviser.
      I sincerely hope you’ll join us in the profession, and like others here have said, I hope you’ll check out our state organizations. I think you’ll be blown away by the work of Texas state journalism students and advisers.

      • Mandy Cross

        Well said, Mrs. Lee. The skill set I learned from your classes, even starting out as a photographer, taught me the values of captivating photography, high expectations, raw journalism, intuitive writing, ethics, business management, and numerous other skills that not only prepared me for collegiate life, but also the real world, and currently a journalistic world. Thank you for that!

        Anyone that teaches knows that student teaching opens doors and there’s a required minimum of at least 30 observation hours before that occurs. I’m sorry, but a mere 30 hours does NOT open the eyes of someone to allow them to make the bold statements mentioned in the article we all have commented on. People do not know the lengths that educators go to for their students, nor do they know the massive amount of continuing education teachers seek out to stay ahead of the game in their content areas. If this woman does end up teaching, which will be a little difficult given her choice certification program and the current economic downsizing of public education, she will have her eyes opened.

    • My yearbook teacher is my hero

      Yearbook class is a metaphor for life, man.

    • Michele Dunaway

      High schools are not colleges. Students don’t take classes just to be journalists. They take electives to find a home. Not everyone who serves on a publication staff will be a journalist so the class must be broader. My take away from your article is that you made the classic mistake of thinking that because you can do journalism and have a degree that you can be a teacher. To me, you came across as short sighted and patronizing of those who’ve come before. Five years from now I’m predicting you will have seen the error and your arrogance of youth, if you’ve managed to stay in this profession that is much more than following a curriculum. Unfortunately, you failed to learn that lesson and instead insulted a whole lot of people.

      • Michele Dunaway

        Oh wait, I see you’ve decided to stay an outsider. Perhaps that’s best. Your article is proof that since you find things less than ideal, you’ll sit out and be an arm chair quarterback. But until you play a real game, you don’t even know what you actually could have accomplished.

    • Betsy Pollard Rau

      Oh, Angela. This is very sad.

      Yearbook, digital and newspaper experiences are merely the vehicles. It is the destination that matters! High school journalism classes teach students higher level thinking skills, prepare them to deal with stress, give them opportunities work as a team, meet deadlines, problem solve, write, shoot and edit. And that’s not all.

      High school journalism students do better their freshman year of college because of their experience. (Journalism Kids Do Better: What Research Tells Us about High School Journalism.Dvorak, Jack).

      High school journalism classes make “group work” fun. They make learning authentic. They come closer than any other class, except perhaps building trades, to giving students real world experience. Math, science and literature classes don’t even come close.

      And not everyone takes journalism courses in high school to become a journalist. Many of my former students are journalists. Many more are doctors, scientists, teachers and in other careers that utilize many of the skills they learned in–you guessed it–yearbook and journalism.

      Ask any student who has been on the staff of a yearbook or newspaper at the high school level, what HS class and teacher are most memorable to them as adults. Ask them where they learned the most useful skills they use on the job and in life. I know their answer. So does every other journalism teacher who read this article and cried, “WTF?”.

      You owe every journalism teacher in Texas and the United States an apology. Especially the teacher whose classroom you visited and misunderstood.

      And please, reconsider your career choice.

      Betsy Pollard Rau,
      Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame
      Central Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame
      Central Michigan Journalism department
      Former HS newspaper adviser

    • Lori Roberts Herbst

      As a former journalism teacher, I served at given times as yearbook adviser, newspaper adviser, broadcast journalism adviser, and photojournalism teacher. This, of course, does not include the many other hats we wear in our daily pursuit of leading, guiding, and preparing our students for “the real world.” I am thinking that your one in-class observation can’t possibly illustrate what these fabulous, motivated students learn and accomplish. And I don’t believe that this blog does credit to your training as a journalist. Explore. Research thoroughly. Ask questions of those involved. Keep an open mind. Do these things completely before you even form an opinion, much less post one to the world. At least, that’s what my former students were taught….

    • Guest

      I find this column to be borderline defensive. You have basically told all high school journalism teachers that what we do doesn’t matter because it’s not the real world. You presented a very narrow view of what a journalism course is all about.

      Let’s take a look at one misconception. You write “the problem is, there’s no yearbook in the journalism world.” You bio doesn’t show that you have a large print background, and this might have caused your misconception. Go pick up any popular magazine today: Time, Newsweek or even Seventeen. What you’ll find are pages filled with layouts resembling some of the layouts used in yearbook journalism. Magazine journalism tells stories with both words and photos, it involves interviewing and researching, and it requires a design that will capture the attention of today’s younger markets. This is exactly what yearbook does. We tell the story of our unique school and school year. It’s not just a “book of memories.”

      Additionally, it teaches marketing, budgeting, planning, law and ethics. It teaches page design, ad design and infographic design. A single class that teaches all of that in one year is not something you would find in most college course catalogs. Yes, we teach history. How can we figure out where to go if we don’t know where we have been? Very cliche, but also very appropriate. Some of us even incorporate video journalism into our yearbook with apps such as Aurasma. We even utilize social journalism such as Facebook and Instagram to both receive and disseminate news items for our followers. This seems very comprehensive and real world application to me.

      I have had students in my journalism track leave and find work immediately as a journalist, page designer and online collaborator. I’ve also had students go to college and receive degrees in photojournalism, print journalism and broadcast journalism. I have some working in major markets. The work they have done in high school paved a path of interest and discovery.

      I myself have worked in various fields and in various positions. Everything I did in both my high school and college courses prepared me for this even if I wasn’t actually designing yearbook pages while I designed the newspapers website. Those same principles are used.

      Let’s look at what you have done. As your comments show, you have offended many, many journalism professionals with your assumptions. Even more you took a wonderful opportunity to forge a relationship with one of the best journalism teachers in the country and learn from her and instead insulted her possibly breaking a wonderful professional contact for when you want to find that journalism teaching job in a high school. I think you need to reevaluate your ideas of what makes a great high school journalism program.

    • Erin Koller Radke

      I find this column to be borderline defensive. You have basically told all high school journalism teachers that what we do doesn’t matter because it’s not the real world. You presented a very narrow view of what a journalism course is all about.

      Let’s take a look at one misconception. You write “the problem is, there’s no yearbook in the journalism world.” You bio doesn’t show that you have a large print background, and this might have caused your misconception. Go pick up any popular magazine today: Time, Newsweek or even Seventeen. What you’ll find are pages filled with layouts resembling some of the layouts used in yearbook journalism. Magazine journalism tells stories with both words and photos, it involves interviewing and researching, and it requires a design that will capture the attention of today’s younger markets. This is exactly what yearbook does. We tell the story of our unique school and school year. It’s not just a “book of memories.”

      Additionally, it teaches marketing, budgeting, planning, law and ethics. It teaches page design, ad design and infographic design. A single class that teaches all of that in one year is not something you would find in most college course catalogs. Yes, we teach history. How can we figure out where to go if we don’t know where we have been? Very cliche, but also very appropriate. Some of us incorporate video journalism into our yearbook with apps such as Aurasma. We even utilize social journalism such as Facebook and Instagram to both receive and disseminate news items for our followers. This seems very comprehensive and real world application to me.

      I have had students in my journalism track leave and find work immediately as a journalist, page designer and online collaborator. I’ve also had students go to college and receive degrees in photojournalism, print journalism and broadcast journalism. I have some working in major markets. The work they have done in high school paved a path of interest and discovery.

      I myself have worked in various fields and in various positions. Everything I did in both my high school and college courses prepared me for this even if I wasn’t actually designing yearbook pages while I designed the newspaper’s website. Those same principles are used.

      Let’s look at what you have done. As your comments show, you have offended many, many journalism educators with your assumptions. Even more you took a wonderful opportunity to forge a relationship with one of the best journalism teachers in the country and learn from her. Instead insulted her possibly breaking a wonderful professional contact for when you want to find that journalism teaching job in a high school. I think you need to reevaluate your ideas of what makes a great high school journalism program.

    • Tom Gayda

      Kind of full of herself. Perhaps too many “How I Met Your Mother” reruns. But as we know: those who can, teach. Those who can’t, criticize teachers.

    • Mike

      Wow. You really did not pay attention in this classroom. The teaching going on in a yearbook/journalism class reaches far beyond that of traditional journalism field.
      You might want to go back to school and this time pay attention. Write for the yearbook, edit, re write and publish a story you conceived. Plan, design, decide on appropriate fonts, photos and graphics to communicate.
      The classroom you visited is one of the very best.
      Based on your observation, I doubt, you could compare to these kids.
      So sad. Enjoy that journalism degree.

    • Kim Lynch

      You say in one of your comments below that you’re “simply reporting what I have observed through this process. I’m sure that there are no two journalism programs that look exactly alike.” That is exactly what I see as the weakness with your blog post. I cannot call it an article, news report or even a story, since those in the “real world” of journalism (high school level or not) know that a published article should have more than one source. You observed one classroom at one school, a great school with a great program, but only one. Then you made assumptions that all high school journalism classes operate that exact same way in every class every day and degraded the value of my 26+ year career. I teach every one of my students that if you are going to give your opinion in print or online, you must research the facts and interview several sources. You didn’t do that, even though you profess to be a “professional in the real world.” I urge you to take Mary Beth Lee’s invitation to the state journalism convention, TAJE, seriously and to attend – so you can accurately report on this issue. I am one of those teachers whose primary teaching responsibility is, in your condescending words, to simply “create a memory book.” The courses I teach are Yearbook, Photojournalism, Fine Arts Photography, Desktop Publishing, and Journalism 1, but like others in my field, I teach all of those skills in every class period, every day. My “memory book” students and many, many other Texas high school journalists have won national level awards for their writing, design, photography and editing work and have gone on to top level journalism programs at universities and beyond. You were correct when you stated that you cannot teach a successful journalism class of any kind (including Yearbook) without addressing all the skills (like social media) needed in what you call “the real world.” The journalism students in the program at my school and at MANY high schools statewide live tweet stories, use social media for reporting and marketing, create, maintain and update online publications, and yes, design a yearbook that happens to win national level awards. As I said, my school is not the only one operating at this level, and frankly, there are many Texas high schools operating way above the level that my students have achieved. You really need to do your homework and look at all the great things Texas high school journalism has to offer students today – why do you want to leave the “real world” to be part of high school education if you have so little regard for basic reporting skills and such a bad attitude about the career? You do realize that in most Texas high schools, you too will be creating that memory book. Then you may not be so quick to judge. Maybe if you had completed your teaching degree in the conventional way, and spent an entire semester or more actually in a high school journalism classroom, instead of taking online classes and spending one day in one, perhaps you’d see what the real world of high school journalism is actually all about. It’s not at all what you’ve reported here, I’m happy to say!

    • Anthony Coggins

      Your ignorance is superseded solely by your arrogance. Get a job in education, teach for a few years, and then feel free to pontificate in the status of education in the schools. Until then, your opinion is in the scrap heap.

      One final point…high school education IS the “real world.” We deal with REAL students and people who have REAL hopes, dreams, problems, and obstacles. We pose REAL challenges and are amazed when our kids find REAL solutions we never dreamed of. Once you realize that, you may become a decent teacher. That is the first thing they don’t teach you in college, especially in “alternative” certification . The second thing they teach you…

      Don’t post anything on the web you wouldn’t want found later. If you are lucky enough to get a job, I am sure you future colleagues will love reading this. It will be found. It isn’t too smart to anger or “put off” potential employers.

      But then again, as a “real world journalist” I am sure you already knew that.

    • Lizabeth Walsh

      PBS MediaShift, Thank you for providing yet another example of how the digital media world has created an army of people who believe their opinions and assumptions are facts and present them as such.

      Angela, it’s a shame your real world experience as a journalist and your observation of a journalism class didn’t prepare you to present a case based on facts. The school you observed is not wealthy, as evidenced by this fact presented in the school’s report: “The student population is also growing in economic diversity with 25% of (approximately 2,100) students now qualifying for federal lunch assistance programs.” One in four students in that school cannot afford to eat! Despite your assumptions, this school is not “high income” if 500+ students live below the poverty line.

      You may have seen all 30 hours of classroom time (I do not know, so I will not assume), but I take issue with yet another opinion unsupported by facts- did students tell you they had no idea why they were doing what they did? You assert so, “Students, no matter their age, want to know, “Why am I learning this?” Part of being a great teacher is communicating at every stage of the learning process: what you’re going to learn, how you’re going to learn it, and then how that learning will be assessed,” but you present no evidence they actually lacked understanding of what they were doing or how it fit into the big picture of journalism.

      This piece as just another negative Facebook post would be perfectly fine. This piece presented as authentic journalism in the form of a first-person account is a mockery of what good journalists (and good journalism students) do.

    • Luke Swinney

      As a former high school newspaper editor, I had the luck of having two of the greatest newspaper advisers during my high school career. Both had different styles of teaching, but I learned so much from them which has absolutely prepared me for the real world. I’ve continued in college outside of the print journalism world, but the skills I learned in my journalism classes as a high schooler have put me so far ahead of other people that I’ve received really incredible opportunities because of it.

      High school journalism class isn’t intended to prepare you for a career in journalism. Journalism was my entire life in high school, but I never wanted to make a career out of it. However, journalism did teach me how to piece together a story, which has made college courses at least 50 times easier. It gave me tips on interviewing and interacting with people, which was something I honestly struggled with before journalism. It taught me to read the news and look at the world in an analytical way, much like how I just read your blog post.

      You’re mistaken to observe one teacher’s class on one occasion and develop an opinion about the entire state of high school journalism. Instead of judging a teacher on one class, I would encourage you to talk to that teacher’s students. I bet you’d find that a journalism teacher is much more than a teacher. They’re a cheerleader, a parent, a mentor, and most importantly a friend. And through all this, they teach life skills that are much more important than “preparing for a career in journalism.” If someone truly wants to be a journalist, that’s what college courses are for.

      Leave high school journalism teachers alone. They’re doing a wonderful job and have made a difference in thousands of kids’ lives, including my own.

    • Katy Culver

      As education curator for PBS MediaShift, I wanted to jump in here. First, many thanks to those commenters who are participating and offering thoughtful counterpoints to Angela’s piece. This is one of the key elements of journalism in a digital age. We try to emphasize dialogue, not monologue. To that end, if anyone is interested in fleshing out your reply into a guest post of 1,000 words or so, feel free to email me at kbculver at wisc dot edu with a pitch. Happy to hear it. That said, I do want to emphasize that Angela’s piece was not intended as an indictment in any way. We asked her to write about her observations having gone through a process that’s a mystery to many. When editing it, I did not see it as insulting or offensive, or I would have flagged it as such and asked for a rewrite. I saw it raising questions that I hoped would stir discussion, and I’m glad it has. EducationShift is about exactly that: conversations and resources to help move journalism curricula forward. Those conversations haven’t always been easy at the college level, and it appears they won’t be in high school either. Yet I think it’s important that we be both open to change and open-minded toward aspiring teachers who may have new perspectives and new ideas. As a teacher myself, I welcome that infusion of energy and the opportunity to mentor someone as she grows in her career. Does Angela have all the answers from her time going through this process? No. But she does have some experiences and insights that are worth talking about.

      • Christine Anne Peirce Coleman

        I am sad to read that you asked Angela to write about her 15 hours of observation and one hour journalism certification test (16 total hours in the journalism teaching field, but no actual teaching experience,) when you could have asked a current adviser with one year, five years, or even 10 years or more experience to express with more information and facts the current state of Texas 8-12 journalism education as it pertains to post-high school readiness.

        This may be rude, but her “expertise” is similar to me sitting at a colleague’s apartment for 15 hours as they write and produce for their digital journalism job and then follow up with a post about how digital journalism standards are failing because of what I witnessed. I simply wouldn’t have the perspective from watching one person, or for having only experienced three days with her.

        While I know the test is lacking and the standards are out of date, because they always will be to some degree in a digital world, those of us that have advised actually know all this and could have presented a much better discussion. And we seek greater understanding not just through Texas organizations, but also the national Journalism Educators Association who also certifies journalism teachers on the national level, some of the Master Journalism Educators have even commented here.

        Instead, her setup of her blog post, and still in my opinion and obviously others, was an attack on the work of advisers as though we don’t work for change. The difference is we recognize change in our classroom students is far more important than any paper from TEA.

        As a “journalistic” host, I do not think I am alone that you chose one source to present this, and that one source was insufficient.

        • Yearbook programs are vital because they help document history. If the course is taught by those who understand the industry, a yearbook program will be more than a document full of just pictures but one that truly allows scholars to develop critical thinking skills, verbal and written skills, business skills, organizational and planning skills, creativity, and more.

          In college I was a journalism major and hold the Master’s degree in communications. I worked as as editor-in-chief for 2 consecutive years in college and went on to do amazing things in the industry as a result of my experiences. I have taught journalism for 6 years in inner-city schools because I believe in what it can do for students. I’m thankful that my former school embraced journalism and saw the benefits to students. I’m blessed to be at a speciality school now where communications is the focus. I believe in the full program…newspaper, magazine, yearbook and digital. As a journalism teacher and if you follow the TEKS, you are able to incorporate technology. I started incorporating technology and digital journalism six years ago. I have full control of how and what my students do in journalism. Being a journalist and a teacher just makes their experiences even better. I’m excited about every new school year because I’m able to add to this wonderful field and expose my students to limitless opportunities.

          BTW, I went through the alternative teacher certification through Region IV…great experience! I am certified in English Language Arts and Reading 8-12 and Journalism. I will be sitting for Technology Applications this semester.

    • Michael Reeves

      Another Texas High School journalism teacher here. I won’t go into much here, other than to agree with all of my fellow journalism teachers who have written here. Your column was offensive, filled with inaccuracies and assumptions. You missed the big picture and you used the state requirements to defend your assumptions, when those guidelines are the tip of the iceberg for every journalism program in the state. You also used a test to support your opinions, and teachers know that standardized tests (both for students and adults) are filled with problems (too many to go into here). I hope you think long and hard about this piece and its implication on journalism teachers in Texas and how you have bashed those that would have been there to help you understand how to separate the “standards” from the “teaching” and what that looks like in the classroom.

    • Jo Anna S

      Being a former yearbook editor in high school, I am a little offended by some of the assumptions in this blog. I am now 37 and have used my journalism/yearbook knowledge through the years for a variety of real world applications. We learned interviewing skills, we learned to only report facts and we learned the importance of meeting deadlines. We had many school nights we had to stay until ten or eleven to finish pages that HAD to be submitted the next morning in order to be printed. Most importantly, we learned the importance of responsibility and accountability. Whether you are a career journalist or have some other career, these are definitely skills needed not only for your job, but for living your everyday life.

    • Brian Kennedy

      I am very familiar with several of the teachers that have commented on this post. They do extraordinary work and are often the standard by which my program strives. It seems that you have gotten a very limited snapshot of what we do in high school journalism. There are so many programs excelling at the tenets you describe. Social media and digital journalism is a growing part of our programs. We, for instance, teach broadcast (in a live daily format, in addition to live field reporting) and offer a convergent media piece as well. I agree with Margie. You would be amazed at what our kids are producing. You are more than welcome to come visit the various programs in our state. We’d welcome you to visit.

  • About EducationShift

    EducationShift aims to move journalism education forward with coverage of innovation in the classroom as journalism and communications schools around the globe are coping with massive technological change. The project includes a website, bi-weekly Twitter chats at #EdShift, mixers and workshops, and webinars for educators.
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