JOURNALISM DU PAINFUL : LUSENET : Dirck Halstead : One Thread

From: Avenir Reynolds To: "'Dirck Halstead'" , "'John Weisman'" Subject: Journalism Du Painful Date: Thu, 30 Oct 1997 08:19:42 -0500 MIME-Version: 1.0

Happy Halloween,

I sent a note to my daughter's journalism teacher. The teacher called to explain exactly what is going on in the class. I feel very sorry for her. She's a Spanish teacher who taught high school until she was recruited for this middle school. Three weeks before school started she was told she'd be teaching journalism, a new elective. The class was formed because there were too many students in the other electives. The school didn't even have the funds for textbooks. The book she's using is on long Ms. Knox is a retired Air Force Officer. I asked her if the military was easier than her present job. She assured me it was. In her present job she not only deals with the hostility from the students, but if she corrects them and doesn't document this, or lowers their grades without documentation she's got to answer to the parents and the board...lots of paperwork. She asked me to visit her classes and talk about community newspapers. From what my daughter told me the students were newspapered out. They'd already had someone come from the local daily, a photographer had been there, and they read the daily paper as part of their weekly assignments. I knew I'd have to present something more interesting than a lecture and a Q&A session. When I was 13 I watched Batman on TV, and had a huge crush on Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees. If someone came into my class and made me laugh, I wanted to pay attention. So I promised my kid I wouldn't be boring. I took my craziest stories, inserted some stuff about alcoholism, drug addiction, and being true to yourself, and headed for school. I signed in at the office, got the official badge and was told to wait for an escort. Before the escort could get there, a frantic call came from a substitute As it turned out Angel barely speaks English. So the first obstacle in getting him was to get a translator. Ms. Knox was called, but she can't leave the classroom. They suggested I take the class. She doesn't know me, she panicked and told them no. She figured there would be an all-out riot. I'm happy to say I managed to surprise her. I was an entertainer long before I wrote anything. I know how to hold a classroom. Angel was eventually caught and arrested. The admin folks went to great lengths to tell me that this *never* happens at their school. Yuh. Sure. Whatever you say. I finally got to the classroom. Ms. Knox had forgotten what I was there to say, so she told me to take 15 minutes and just talk about "whatever" (as if I'd come unprepared). I went into my schtick. It went well, but I was cutting my 30 minute spiel down as I went along. Then the students were supposed to work on their newspaper and show me their work. They have ONE computer. Can you imagine how awful this is? We had about 20 students waiting to use one computer. And it's a Mac with an old pagemaker program on it, so it's very slow. Not one student has a Mac at home. I was beginning to see why the teacher was so stressed. Then a boy with braces on his teeth and a huge football jersey on threw a fit. I motioned for the teacher that I'd take care of him. We found a quiet corner where he read his column to me. It was pretty good. I learned that a little more because if that would give him an edge to make big money after sports, he's interested. The second class was much bigger, maybe 30 students, and the teacher had just been told she had 15 minutes to get some flyers approved and printed. So I took the entire class. I know that one of the local daily folks came in and talked to them in a monotone about editors, and reporters. My daughter said she spoke to them as if they were kindergarteners. This class has 2 students who say they want to write. The rest of the class is made up of students who want me to know that this was not their firs Sooooo I told them about the pig my husband went to buy and how writing about it resulted in my first column. I told them about Baxter the cat who thought the mouse in the "Gooey Louie" mousetrap (glue trap) was his happy meal. He got the stupid thing stuck on his face. I spent the wee hours racing around the yard in my nightgown trying to rescue Baxter from his own appetites. I had my little crowd holding their sides and laughing. Then I hit them with the big punch--that I'm easily distracted, don' I was invited back. I'm disgusted at the way the class was thrown together. Each year I get madder and madder as I see how funds are cut and red-tape increased in our schools. I have tremendous respect for anyone brave enough to be a teacher. I left the classroom wondering how many potential journalists we lose because of classes like this. How many communications majors will get out of college and head for work on a public relations firm because nobody ever took the time to explain the realities of the profession? F Three students took the time to tell me the only reason they were in the class was because someone told them it would be easy. One girl, Mona said, "I didn't know you had to WRITE in journalism class." This is scary stuff. I'm being brave. I have to be, I'm the Mom. I hope you both get lots of treats for Halloween, Avenir

-- Avenir Reynolds (, November 13, 1997

Moderation questions? read the FAQ