When you've been around 44 years, it's amazing what memories replay themselves like movies in your mind. There's one in particular that when I think back on it, it literally seems like a scene from some John Hughes movie. You know, those ones he did with Molly Ringwald. (Fun Fact: I watched "Sixteen Candles" so many times one summer I could speak along to it word-for-word!)
I went to a fairly small high school, but two even smaller K-8 private schools funneled into our high school. (Note: my high school was housed under the same roof as the elementary and junior high. We all shared the same cafeteria, too.)
Going into 9th grade, I sat in the same gymnasium I had sat in for the first day of school in 7th and 8th grade, but I noticed several "new" kids coming towards where my class was assigned to sit. The new Lutheran and Catholic school kids had arrived.
Believe it or not, I was actually much more shy back then. So, imagine my suprise with this bright-eyed, beautiful, and loud girl picked ME to sit with. This was followed by her sitting near me in any class I had with her. I can still hear her loudly stating, "Hi, I am Emily! We're going to be friends!"
As she continued being nice to me, I tried to explain to her over that first week of school that I wasn't popular and hanging out with me probably wasn't going to be good for her reputation. I was a bit of a nerd afterall. She just laughed at me anytime I would try to change her mind. Her goal was to make one new public school friend. For some reason, I was that new friend.
Four years of high school came and went like the blink of an eye. Proms, parties, wedding dances at the Catholic Hall, skee ball at the Lake, and more memories than I can count include one Emily Rose Oligschlaeger. She always made me laugh. I always remembered how to spell her last name.
Then, college came. We didn't just drift apart, there was this huge divide between us and it hurt so much that sometimes I really thought I hated her for picking me to be her new public school friend. That's the funny thing about loving people, isn't it? Great bonds can mean deeper wounds.
However, in a leap of faith we both took in our mid-20s, we wrote letters to each other. We explained how we felt, and how incredibly sorry we were for not understanding each other. Most importantly, we accepted we were two very different people on two very different paths.
Now, we are in our mid-40s. We are still very different people. Sometimes I want to strangle her (and I am sure she wants to strangle me, too). Yet, we've made it. We've survivied a lot of loss and thrived on a lot of love. Sure, we may only get to see each other one to two times a year if we are lucky, but we both know we'd jump in a heartbeat to help each other out. It's so wonderful to have someone who has your back, isn't it?
How funny it is that when I think about a scene in my life that could easily be in a movie, it is that moment when Emily decided that I was going to be her new friend. I do not know what possessed her to do so, but I am thankful to this day.
I hate Virginia Creeper. To me, it's a nuisance. It literally will overtake a flower bed, consume a tree, and cover anything in its path. There's a batch of it that keeps coming back in my back yard. I have pulled it, dug it up (or so I thought), sprayed it, and I am pretty I sure did some sort of ceremonial dance begging for it to go away last week. It just keeps coming back.
The persistance of things we do not want in our lives can be quite frustrating. Sure, I could give up and let it overtake my back lawn, but I know the nature of Virginia Creeper and keep fighting the good fight to keep it at bay.
Virginia Creeper reminds me of the acts I saw take place in my own country just a few short weeks ago. Sometimes, I get comfortable and think that hatred in our nation is at bay. Haven't we pulled hatred up by its roots, so no new growth can occur?
Yes, there are times I am lulled into this false sense of security. I actually start to believe that we Americans have learned from the past and will not repeat those same sins. I have hope that our nation is not a broken record playing the same anger-filled chorus over and over. Then, I am lulled out of that state of mind by images of white supremacists marching with both Confederate and Nazi flags.
The noxious weed of White Supremecy and hate is back in my metaphorical backyard. Do I give up? Not at all! I keep trying to pull it out by its roots and end new growth. Just like that darn Virginia Creeper, it will take over and consume anything in its path. Yet, myself and a whole lot of "someones" out there need to take a stand and say, "Not on our watch. Not in our America. Not in our backyard."
It's time to rip out hatred in America and not let it sprout up again and again. This isn't about political parties or who you voted for. This is about doing the right thing and standing against those who would strip their fellow man of their basic rights.
As my friend Forrest Gump said, "That's all I got to say about that."
A recent poll by Gallup reports that 62 percent of Americans believe Journalists are biased in the arena of politics. The majority of those polled feel journalists favor Democrats in their reporting.
This isn’t a shocker. Poll after poll has similar results: Americans believe Journalists are biased and weave a web of fabricated tales.
Where did we go wrong?
Recently, I engaged in conversations with several individuals who remember Watergate. All expressed that the majority of the Americans they knew didn't feel the events surrounding Watergate were "fake news" and the "liberal media" was out to destroy President Nixon.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the question I posed earlier: where did we go wrong?
I walked away from these discussions with a common answer. With an abundance of news sources running 24/7, to fill time, commentators are included in the lineup. The lines between commentary and news have become blurred.
Former politicians, lawyers, and other professionals are sitting in the chair formerly reserved for unbiased Journalists.
They are providing political commentary in the same manner former pro football players analyze and provide insight during nationally televised games. It's safe to say that news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc. are pulling an ESPN by bringing in the color commentators. Unfortunately, the general public sees them as biased Journalists instead of the commentators they are.
How do we, as educators, raise up a new generation of Americans who can tell the difference between commentary and news? I think the answer is as simple as taking the time to explain the difference between the two, then watch and read examples of both. Afterward, have a class discussion or a quick written assignment that gives students the opportunity to share what they have learned in the process.
Just like the instructions on a shampoo bottle tell us we may have to repeat the process, the same applies to this. Teachers covering a variety of subjects from History to Journalism can implement this topic into their curriculum to help students know the difference between an unbiased Journalist and commentary.
There are several resources that can help guide educators through this process:
The Difference Between Reporting and Commentary:
Opinion Journalism vs Objective News Reporting:
Quora: What is the difference between a Journalist and a Commentator:
Some Journalists Blur the Lines Between News and Opinion:
Looking back on this school year, I honestly think one of the BEST things BJJTV has done is something that hasn't won a bunch of awards or grant money. It is something that may not get us a ton of attention in the competitive world of scholastic journalism, but it has gotten us attention within our school. This something is our weekly Friday Show feature "Not Just Another Face in the Crowd."
In November, myself and three students attended the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism convention in Indianapolis. We attended a session titled "Humans of Your School: The Video" taught by Michael Hernandez and his student Omar Ahmed. They are from Mira Costa High School in California. We already do a Humans of WHS with photographs and quotes on our website, but this focused on producing quick one-hitter video features about various students.
Myself and the BJJTV students in attendance were hooked. We knew this HAD to happen for our school. Why? Well, the Friday Show needed a facelift. Our student body is full of students who have stories to tell. And, quite frankly, many of our students do not know each other.
It took some planning and experimenting, but by January we were ready to dump the "Pet of the Week" and weekly contests on the Friday Show and launch "Not Just Another Face in the Crowd." That first week alone, I recieved six emails and two personal visits from teachers and students complimenting the new segment.
This spring semester, we had one week we didn't have the segment, and students came to me complaining that they had missed it. Several told me it is their favorite part of the Friday Show. That in itself was better than any award or grant we have won this year. I love that we are creating something for our students and teachers that they appreciate and actually miss when it doesn't happen.
Click HERE if you would like to see all the people we have featured on "Not Just Another Face in the Crowd" since we started it in January 2017.
Until next time,
I clearly remember watching both the national and local news with my mom during dinner. It’s what many 40-somethings, like myself, did when we were children. We didn’t just consume meatloaf with a side of carrots; we had a helping of news delivered to us from networks such as NBC, CBS, and ABC.
Today’s tweens and teens do not consume the same news diet. Newspaper readership is down, as are network news ratings. Many students aren’t home for the evening news due to jobs and school activities. Gone are the days of watching a story about a presidential scandal or a peanut butter recall, and discussing the issues with a trusted adult in the home.
Additionally, multiple polls show that the top three news sources for people under 22 are Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. Often, those quick headlines or 140 character tweets that get attention aren’t even real. Many are outdated, parody, or “fake news.”
Sadly, it’s not just tweens and teens swept up in the unreality; many adults are having trouble navigating these waters.
In 2010, the rapper P. Diddy started a Twitter rumor that LeBron James signed with the Knicks. People believed it; therefore P. Diddy issued an apology.
People have believed so many fake news stories stating Justin Bieber is dead that he took to Twitter in both 2010 and in 2014 to verify that he is indeed still among us. Some people were still unconvinced. Perhaps that is why he made various video appearances shortly after each “I am still alive” tweet he posted.
Fast forward to 2016. A fake news site article went viral on Facebook stating that Pope Francis publically endorsed Donald Trump. People believed it. I have Facebook friends who said they shared it without even reading it simply based on the headline.
As educators, the time is NOW for us to guide students of all ages through this uncharted territory. There are several fairly simple ways to evaluate news.
#1. Do you see poor grammar, misspellings, outdated web design, and unprofessional looking photos? Professional news sources avoid these issues. Often, when someone points out a misspelling or grammar issue, they fix it as soon as possible.
#2. Is there exaggeration in the headline? “You Will NOT Believe What (insert name) Did to Earn Votes! It is SHOCKING!” If it says you cannot believe it, well, odds are you shouldn’t. This is most-likely click bait. Some sites are driven financially by how many hits they get. Your click just made a fake news reporter happy. Did you share it? They are now overjoyed because you are lining their pocketbooks.
#3. Do they cite sources? Who did they interview? Did they conduct sound research? The news is probably not reliable if you cannot see clear answers to these questions.
#4. Is there a byline? As in, who actually wrote the article? Can you find this person online? Are they real? (By the way, I am real. My name is Michelle Turner. I teach Broadcast Journalism at Washington High School in Washington, MO.)
#5. Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while truth is still putting on its shoes.” How fitting for today. It is simply too easy for anyone to create a website and publish whatever they desire. Ask yourself a few questions before hitting that share or retweet button. Is this a reputable news source you have trusted in the past? Do they have a history of being known for delivering the news?
#6. With that said, reputable news sources tend to own their own domain. Yes, it is important to check the website’s URL. Is it a website you have heard of before? Is it suspicious? Perhaps it mimics a reputable news site, but the .com is followed with .co .lo or other letters you are not familiar with.
#7. If it sounds fishy or fake, do your research! There are several sources for fact checking: snopes.com and factcheck.org are both known for debunking fake news.
#8. Is there an “about” or “contact” area of the website? Look for one. There should be a way to contact reporters for the site. There also should be information about the publication included.
#9. Are other news sites reporting this story? Do not just trust one news source. It’s important to get news from a variety of sources.
#10. Last, but not least, do not share something without making sure it is current and reliable. Teachers and students alike can create a ripple effect and calm the media waters by not spreading false or outdated information. We can also kindly let others know when we see they have shared fake or outdated news.
On that note, The Golden Girls actress Rue McClanahan died in 2010. Can we please stop posting on Facebook that she has recently died? The sharing of her passing happened so often in 2015 she was a trending topic on social media. Just the other night, one of my Facebook friends claimed that, “2017’s First Victim is Blanche” and posted an article about Rue’s death. She took it down when I politely pointed out she died seven years ago.
Simply put, we are constantly bombarded with information in today’s society. Separating fact from fiction can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. People of all ages can learn how to conduct simple fact checks to become better-informed citizens. It is our responsibility, as educators, to help students of all ages evaluate news sources.
I am in the uplift business. As an educator, I believe in doing more than simply teaching a curriculum. It’s my mission to help students find their passion. I want them to see greatness within themselves that they may not know is there.
Imagine my surprise when the tables were turned on me by you last summer.
I entered my classroom on a steamy day in August 2015 ready to prep for my 20th year of teaching. I found a very heavy package. As I opened it, I instantly knew what was in my hands. It was a Peter Lik photography book.
I knew that book well because just that spring when I was placing my school supply order, I had looked at it online. I wished I could have one, but it certainly wasn’t in my budget to order one. My mind raced in a panic assuming that I accidentally ordered it for my classroom.
Thoughts ran a marathon through my mind:
How did I do this?
I was just LOOKING at them online, I didn’t mean to order one!
How do I explain the mix up to my bosses and our finance office?
…but then I opened your letter. As I read it, I felt happy tears and got goose bumps!
As you stated, every year my students select photographers they admire to write. You were the recipient of one such letter and instead of just skimming it and putting it to the side, you did one of the kindest things I have ever experienced.
In my flurry of excitement, I showed the letter to my bosses, my co-workers in the art department, any one I could find in the building…I even took a photo of it and posted it on my personal facebook account. People were in awe.
Within a few days, my student got a hold of me to see if I had heard from you like she had. You didn’t just write me and give me an amazing gift, you were kind to her, too.
The words you wrote inspired me. Suddenly, I felt like perhaps I was more than a decent teacher. Maybe I had some greatness within myself that I didn’t see. I felt like I could accomplish anything because you, a man whose work I admire deeply, took the time to call me “inspirational” and a “legend.”
I read the letter to my parents and daughter over dinner one night. I showed them the book. My mom agreed that your letter was a “framer.”
From the receipt of that heavy box you sent to the very last day of school, my 20th year of teaching was honestly one of my favorite school years ever. I felt compelled to try new things and toss myself into areas where I could fail, but instead I was able to flourish.
Mr. Lik, I don’t just teach Photography at my school, I am also the Broadcast Adviser for Blue Jay Journal TV.
Upon receipt of your letter, I thought to myself, “Well, I was a finalist for JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year a few years ago, maybe I should try again? I am a ‘legend,’ right?”
OK, maybe that is a bit goofy sounding, but it’s true. You instilled within me the confidence to try so many new things within my career and in my day-to-day teaching. You did that with one letter (which is now framed in my home) and one amazing gift (your beautiful art book).
So, in conclusion, THANK YOU for taking your time to write a letter to both my student and me. Thank you for the photography book, and most importantly for the uplift. You lit a fire within me. I set a goal to make my 20th year as a teacher my best one ever. I don’t want that sense of adventure to end. I can only imagine what next school year, my 21st, will have in store.
I am more than just a fan of your work, I am an eternally grateful teacher.
Michelle A. Turner
PS: By the way, I am the 2016 JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. Thank you for that “push” that I needed to believe in myself and hit the “submit” button on that application.
This school year has been one of the biggest blessings for me for MANY reasons. However, eight of those reasons are photographed right here:
I won't pretend that all eight of these young women are perfect, because in many ways it is a person's imperfections that make them who they are. Sometimes those qualities that we wish we could fix about ourselves, end up being some of our best character traits.
I will be honest and say that in each of these young women I see these wonderful qualities: hope, humor, joy, determination, perseverance, beauty, intelligence, heart, beautiful smiles and amazing hair! (I am a girl, after all! Just look at their hair!)
When I think about the school year, I know so many of the great moments I have witnessed have been because of these young women.
They took the time to be leaders for their BJJTV Staff and their school. They shared in that responsibility and didn't wait for some magic title to be bestowed upon them. It didn't matter if they had been on staff three years or one, they all stepped up and took on responsibility for leading this staff to great heights. When one of them had an off day or week, another would step in and help pick up the slack. That kind of teamwork is something I dream of.
They found ways to tell stories that mattered to our school and community, too. Some of their work has gone "viral" and for good reasons, not for lackluster ones. They produced stories with heart, with gumption, and with the best interests of all the stakeholders in mind. I couldn't be more proud of the body of work created this year, and this year isn't even totally over yet!
As their time in BJJTV comes to an end, I have four thoughts I want to share with them, and any student who is about to embark into the "real world."
#1. Too many of our nation's youth are leaving HS and entering college with a lot of "brain power." Sadly, though, we have not equipped them with "work power." I am fairly confident that by being in a program like BJJTV, these ladies now know how to work and work hard to accomplish a goal. They know how to overcome obstacles and not give up. My TOP TIP for life success in college and in the work place is to WORK and get tasks done to the best of your ability in an acceptable timeframe. Bosses don't want excuses, they wants results.
#2. The biggest regret I have from college was not taking the opportunity that was handed to me before my senior year to study for a few months in London. What was I thinking? Oh, yeah...I was thinking about the cost and how it could throw off my graduation date by a few months and a guy I was seeing. Stupid! I still kick myself for that. Do not turn down amazing opportunities for crazy reasons.
#3. Get out of your bubble and network with new people. As you leave WHS, you can actually make new friends. You can live in a dorm or apartment with people you've just met. You can actually put down that phone and network socially face-to-face with new people. Do it. It'll help you grow and change in so many ways.
#4. Travel. Travel. Travel. Travel. I can't say it enough. You may say you don't have the time or money, that's a lie. You can start a fund now. I started young by stashing away cash I "would have" spent on expensive clothing or a fancy meal out in an envelope in my freezer. Now, I do something crazy and have a travel savings account and find ways to go on the cheap, like flyer miles via Southwest Visa Rewards. I have had friends ask me strange questions like, "Why are you going to New Mexico over Christmas with your mom?" My response, "I haven't been there yet." Every town, every state, and every country you visit will teach you more than I can possibly teach you. Just put down that phone and absorb your surroundings. It'll show you that there's not one "right" way to live, but many ways. Oh, and try the food, too. It's a fun experience to learn that Frito Pie in Santa Fe is amazing, but grits in Bowling Green aren't up your alley.
So, ladies, as you tackle the last quarter of your WHS experience, I hope you'll take some of my thoughts to heart. Also, know that I thank you all so much for an amazing year.
I work too much.
I stare at a screen too much.
I don't take care of myself enough.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
OK, so I have heard it a lot from various sources (friends, co-workers, my eye doctor, and even the dentist).
Maybe it's true.
However, I can say this. When it gets to be a bit too much, I do have one way to stay sane and find my sense of self.
My great escape is photography.
See that image above?
I made that at Grand Teton National Park this past summer. Yeah, I used the word MADE. There's a big difference between MAKE and TAKE. Ansel Adams stressed that. We don't take, we make great images.
Who is Ansel? Well, funny you ask. He's one of my inspirations in life. He got me out to Yosemite several times. He encouraged me to reach for all the range of tone possible in an image and to really hone my focus. That's impressive for a man who passed away when I was only 10 years old.
Gosh, I wish I had met Ansel Adams.
OK, let's get this back on track...
Here's my secret to sanity and self-care, folks:
There's nothing more cool than hopping on a plane with a $5 to $10 ticket (thanks Southwest Flyer Mile program!) and jumping in a rental car with a map. Oh, and of course I pack my camera.
I don't just like to bop around out west, I can find images to capture in my own neck of the woods, no airline ticket required. Look at this one one below:
I like that one. That's huge. I often am my worst critic. (Oh, I need to add that to the list after "I don't take care of myself enough." NOTED!)
Funny thing about this image is that I made it at WHS right outside the West Wing Cafeteria.
I am so old... I mean "experienced" and "seasoned" that I remember when that area was Four Rivers Technical School. Yes, I said Technical School. Now, it's the West Wing cafeteria. Where have the last two decades gone?
So, with age and experience comes this thing called "getting to know yourself."
This is what I know. All those people I mentioned before are right.
I work too much.
I stare at a screen too much.
I don't take care of myself enough.
((adding, as noted)) I often am my worst critic.
However, I have photography. THAT keeps me on track. You can just ask my BFF, Kris. (If you can catch her, she's a busy gal.) Anytime she notices I am acting a little off kilter and unbalanced, she says it's time for me to get my camera and go for a drive.
She's right. Where's my keys?
The year is 1996.
Warrenton Junior High School.
Yes, back when they were Junior High Schools and not "Middle Schools."
You are in a lower-level corner room that has some windows near the top. A bit drab when empty, but when full it is bustling!
It's an overcrowded school system, so a split-shift day is in full swing until they can complete a new High School building.
This yellow room has two teachers desks!
There are High School Math classes from the crack of dawn to noon, and Junior High English, Publications, and Drama classes from noon to about sunset.
A very nervous, yet very happy to have a job in her chosen field, 22 year-old graduate of Central Missouri State University (now UCM) stands before a classroom of 33 students in a Junior High Drama class near the middle of the school day. It's huge. Her other classes are manageable, but this one is boiling over with eye-rollers, talkers, and kids angry because they just found out their old Drama teacher resigned two weeks before school started.
It is so crowded that some students take turns sitting on the floor the first week until they cram more desks in.
In the crowd, there's a girl who at times makes empathetic eye contact with the very inexperienced teacher who is just trying to remember what it was like to be in Drama. (The last time she was in Drama was in High School!)
Back to the student... she's 14 maybe going on 15, tall for her age, and mature. She is always well-mannered, but there's this spirit to her. A little spark in her eyes that only increases as the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months. She is vibrant.
The nervous, young, and not-so-bright teacher and her hit it off.
They laugh at the same things, they tell the same jokes, and they think the same things often.
By the end of the year, the girl steals the show on stage, at nursing homes where she would give monologues, and steals the young teacher's heart.
Flash forward 20 years. I (the young teacher) have silver streaks taking over my hair and I feel way less nervous. I am at Washington High School in a windowless, but VERY bright classroom.
That young girl who I just adored and secretly wished could be my little sister is still very much in my life.
I was only in that town and school for two years, but somehow Krista and I connected. Over the years she and I have been in touch, out of touch, back in touch... and we've celebrated many milestones.
She sang in my wedding. She was also one of the first to express her sadness over a decade later when my marriage ended. She celebrated my 40th birthday. She made sure I had a chance to see her in Theatre during her run as a Graduate student at Lindenwood University. She has played on a slip and slide with my daughter. She's met me for lunches, a roadtrip, and more. We have laughed, cried, and laughed some more over the years together.
As an only child, she very well could be the little sister I always wanted - yet at the same time I didn't want a sibling for "real." See, the beauty of Krista is I have never had to share a house with her or fight for the attention of our parents or bathroom counter space! Ha!
Also, she's 32 and I am 41. There's just enough of an age gap, I think sometimes she listens to my advice and doesn't write me off as too old or too young.
What has her on my mind this summer? Another life celebration has occurred. I got to visit her in the hospital, and hold her newborn daughter on Saturday, July 18th. Grace is beautiful. I figured I would love her since I have loved her mom for 20 years as my "adopted" sister, and I was right. I am not great with babies, but this one - she has stolen my heart just lke her mom has.
I am so thankful I got to meet and hold Krista's little Grace recently. I am also thankful Krista's mom went and sat with my daughter so I could do so. (Kids under 14 are not allowed in the hospital she's in).
So, the age-old question(s) posed to me yearly are addressed right here today in this blog entry:
~ Who is your favorite student, MT?
~ I am your favorite, right?
~ Come on, who is your favorite?
Mystery solved. It's still Krista...
...or maybe it's ALL of you?
Until next time,
Starting year 22 as a Journalism educator. Photographer. Mom. Daughter. Nature-Junkie. Super Fan of Missouri State Parks and Conservation Lands. Plotting a nomad retirement. #blessed