We have this weird 90-minute block of time every other day called Core+ during the school day. Students are able to get help with classwork, finish homework, read, and more with some of that time.
This time is a huge benefit for my class because it allows for students to have extra time to get interviews. You see, in my journalism classes, students have to pull their sources out of class to interview them. Normally, this isn't a problem because my students have to schedule an appointment using the tried-and-true Appointment Pass I created years ago.
The Appointment Pass is a simple carbon copy: the reporter writes the student name, teacher name, date, time, etc. on the pass and the teacher signs it. I get the top part, and the reporter gets the bottom part.
This pass lets me know the students checked in with the teacher to make sure it's OK for an interview. It also lets me know where they are in case of an emergency.
The faculty I work with are pretty fabulous and supportive, and they will often allow students to get interviewed during class, as long as they are respectful and professional little journalists.
To cut down on those interruptions, I like Core+ because the entire school has it at the same time.
So, when a student is struggling with getting an interview during class, I just tell them to get a pass and do the interview during Core+.
Then they say this: "But I have homework to do."
Is getting interviews not homework? Is this not a real class?
I'm a mere Muggle in their Hogwarts world.
This annoys me. They hold their science, social studies, math and language arts classes above mine. Those are real classes that matter, apparently. This thing, this yearbook they're working on is pointless.
When students tell me they have homework they need to get done during Core+, I ask them: "Are the interviews you have to get done not homework?"
They fall quiet. Sure it's homework, they think, but it's not as important. I have learned the truth at this point. They don't see my class as a real class, because let's face it, the communication skills they're working on won't help them in high school or the real world...
...said no one ever.
Then, I remind them that they have a real audience. That hundreds of people follow our Twitter account and see our updates and links to stories on our website. I remind them that over 1,000 kids are actually paying for their homework when they purchase a yearbook.
"How many people pay for your language arts paper?"
I usually get silence in return, which means I have won.
I don't mean to belittle the other classes, but I feel like I have to use fighting words in order for students to realize that my class is a class, too. That it's not just this thing they do for 90 minutes every other day.
Sure, it's not a typical class, but I truly believe they are getting something out of my class, even if they don't realize it.
When we talk about photo composition and design terms, they're actually learning about art, and sometimes, those skills get reapplied in their art classes.
When we discuss good question writing and interviewing, we're working on research skills. They do a ton of research in their science, social studies and language arts classes.
When students submit a Tweet to me so we can update our Twitter feed with the news of the school, they're taking the information that they've gathered, summarize it and create their own main ideas in the form of a Tweet. I also publish those to our growing list of Twitter followers. Those Tweets they write have an authentic audience, and they are often liked and retweeted. It's also one of the few ways we can report "breaking" news.
When we work on stories, they're writing. Writing benefits all areas of every class, ever. We do daily editing exercises, which can benefit them in language arts.
So, when a student thinks my class isn't a real class, they are sorely mistaken.
When Whitney Houston sings, "I'm every woman," on "The Bodyguard" soundtrack -- that's me she's singing about.
My class is every class.
No, they won't be tested on a standardized test over what they've learned, but the concepts and skills they work on in my classroom can help in other areas. There are times when I try to tell my students that journalism can be seen as a bridge to their other classes.
What they're working on in those classes, well, they're working on all that in my class, too.
Then, I drop my mic and leave the room.
Who is The Vade Mecum
Evan Williams is a middle school journalism teacher in Indiana. He advises the student publications: yearbook, magazine, video announcements, broadcast and online news. To find success in the classroom, he uses blended learning with the help of Canvas and Google Apps for Education.