February 8, 2002: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Journalism: University Education: Student Press Review: Philippines RPCV David Wiegand says: Why continue advising newspapers?

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Philippines RPCV David Wiegand says: Why continue advising newspapers?

Philippines RPCV David Wiegand says: Why continue advising newspapers?

Philippines RPCV David Wiegand says: Why continue advising newspapers?

Why continue advising newspapers?
By David Wiegand

Published: Friday, February 8, 2002

Typical of many new teachers, I became the newspaper adviser as a condition of getting a teaching position. The personnel director even asked me to commit to at least three years before I would resign the responsibility of monitoring the paper. That was 1985 and I'm still collecting my four percent extra pay for being the adult connected to the Warrior's Word at Wausau West High School.

Why do I keep coming back? It certainly is not the money. It is not the glory. It is not because I enjoy pain. Rather, like most teaching experiences, it is the gratification in helping students discover their talents, push themselves to new levels, and learn to communicate with the world around them. Most teachers savor those times when a student exclaims, "I got it!" The student newspaper provides many realistic opportunities for those higher degrees of student (and teacher) success.

A publication that is truly managed, directed and owned by the students involved provides numerous opportunities for hands-on, real life lessons. Seldom does a textbook-driven curriculum have the broad scope of skills called for in producing a newspaper. However, in newspaper production, students quickly realize that a quality product requires teamwork, organization and composition skills. When their work hits the streets, they know that they have accomplished a great deal. An A on an exam or term paper shows that a single teacher feels this was quality work. When the newspaper turns an otherwise rambunctious homeroom into a "Quiet, I'm reading the school paper" atmosphere, then the reporters, editors, computer geeks and photographers are aware that hundreds or even thousands say, "Good job!"

Buzz words in contemporary education include "cross-curricular," "soft skills" and "communication." I submit that the high school newspaper is the best medium for each of these. A student reporter must develop and draw upon knowledge in many curricular areas. Mathematics, social sciences, art, computer technology as well as language arts come into play with the research, design, writing and production of the paper. For instance, fractions, percentages and even ratio calculations are often used in layout and photography sizing. Every English teacher preaches revising as an integral part of the writing process. I have seen many student reporters revise as many as ten times before a story is considered final copy. At minimum, every piece of writing usually passes through two or three edits and improvements. As the reporter seeks out the public for interviews, his verbal and listening skills are challenged as he asks questions and then comes back with follow-up queries.

As an adviser, I always like to know if I am really getting through. For the past several years, I have used the Advanced Placement testing program to verify what has been learned. Each year, I have two or three students who were on the newspaper staff for at least two years take the Advanced Placement Language Exam (Note: there is no class in AP Language offered at my school, but anyone can take the test if one pays the fee.). The scores are almost always threes, fours or fives. I believe these scores are achieved because of the intense involvement in language required to put out a quality school paper.

Another perk is the degree of personal interaction required between adviser and student as the paper moves from concept to design to polish to print. In twenty-five plus years of teaching, I've had thousands of students in class. Many were personable and likable people, but the ones who are still in contact with me are the workers on the paper. I can remember Betty from my 1976 Freshman English class, but I have no idea where she is or what she's doing now. On the other hand, I get regular e-mails from Sharilyn (now stationed in Turkey in an Army medical unit supporting the combat in Afghanistan) who was an editor in 1990. I exchange school papers with Raechel who is now an adviser herself. I get regular progress reports from Laura who now works for the New York Times. These students are more than somebody I once had in class. They are a part of me and I am part of who they are.

As I rant, rave, cajole and weep with my student journalists, they often ask how much longer I will be advising. My reply continues to be the same as it has been for many years, "I'll quit when I no longer enjoy coming to work on Mondays (and Saturdays and Sundays and evenings and during vacations and early mornings and...)."

David Wiegand is the adviser to Warriors Word newspaper and the Aurora yearbook at Wausau West High School in Wausau, Wisc. He also teaches at CSPA's annual Summer Journalism Workshop.

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Story Source: Student Press Review

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Journalism; University Education



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