Below are some of my favorite
"smart phone free" BJJTV moments.
At one of our last pep assemblies, I scanned the gym and took many mental notes. From students playing video games and streaming shows on Netflix, the majority had one thing in common: they clearly didn't care about our students who were running for Student Council or competing in spring sports. I compared it to what used to be the "norm" at WHS pep assemblies in the (not-so-distant) past, and was heartbroken.
I miss the days that so many kids were running for Student Council office there was an actual assembly to hear all the candidates speeches. Running "unopposed" wasn't "a thing" back then.
Oh, how I miss actually hearing the silence while kids LISTENED to the students announcing the athletes and then loud roars of cheers once they were finished talking. The clapping, cheering, and general happy feeling in the Big Blue Jay gym warmed my heart and reminded me of my own high school days as a Eugene Eagle.
What's happened? Why are teens more interested in Netflix or Snapchat than the real world that is right in front of them? I must be getting old, because I just don't understand. I also enjoy some escapism via social media or Netflix, but not at the expense of missing out on what could be an enjoyable experience.
I think back to when cell phones were becoming a "thing" in the not-so-distant past. I was on a trip with kids in California for a journalism convention. We were sightseeing on one of those fun tour buses with a guide who had attitude. Once we completed the tour, we were comparing our photos (on our cameras NOT our phones) and one girl was LIVID with all of us.
"The HOLLYWOOD SIGN!? We drove past THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN!? Why didn't you tell me!?" She was screaming at the group.
Before I could speak up, another girl responded calmly, "I did. I tried to tell you several times about all the things you were missing because you were in WashMO and not here with us."
This left us all a bit confused, until she added, "I saw you texting your boyfriend the whole time instead of being HERE with us in California."
The anger and confusion subsided. I noticed a marked change in the flip phone texter. She put down her new device and pulled out her digital camera to be in the moment with us for the next phase of the day's events. She realized that the reality she was missing wasn't worth ditching for escapism on a digital device. You see, even back then those flip phones were enticing. So much so, she missed seeing a landmark she'd been dying to view.
I don't care if it's a flip phone or an iPhone. I don't care if it's a pep assembly or the Hollywood sign. Be in the moment, Blue Jays. A lot of this "reality" you are escaping or avoiding will not repeat itself. Remember what my friend Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
This conversation makes me a little nuts.
Person #1: "How are you?"
Person #2: "Busy! You?"
Person #1: "Same here!"
What is that? That's not a conversation. No depth was reached and no real connection was made.
We are living in a society that is so busy that we don't take time for deep conversations, or even proper amounts of sleep. Heck, half the time people aren't even focused on the tasks at hand that require full attention, such as driving a motor vehicle!
When did we feel the need to have stores open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? When did we suddenly feel the need to have CONSTANT access to entertainment, news, and games? Maybe there isn't an EXACT DATE when this all happened, but I've watched this new lifestyle phase into popularity over the last 20 years and I've seen the damage it has done to people of all ages.
The truth is that both rest and stillness lead people towards many amazing things. It helps us heal emotionally and physically. Quiet and still moments where we can savor life deepen relationships and strengthens our connection to a higher power. It brings about less anxiety and more peace.
I don't know how we can rewind and go back to the time that sitting on the front porch listening to the wind in the trees (without an electronic device in hand) was a perfectly acceptable activity. However, I do believe it's time to take a step back and reconsider the glorification of "busy" before we all burn out from the lack of rest.
Everyone is an expert. They will tweet about how to raise children. They will comment on your pet turtle's Instagram page about how to properly feed it. They will even post on Facebook about what's wrong with education these days.
For the record, I want to say that just because someone on social media has a nice professional-looking profile photo and they use proper grammar in posts, that does NOT make them an expert.
Case in point, this summer I read a tweet by someone who dabbles in education that teachers should NOT have kids memorize things they can just look up the answers to on Google. Really? I cannot believe this person said that.
So, if I see someone driving down the highway Googling how to turn on their car's headights or how to use their brakes, I guess I can thank her.
The next time I hire a photographer for my family photos, if they have to pause to Google how to use their camera settings, I'll really be patient and understanding because they must subscribe to that woman's school of thought.
Better yet, the next time I get my back adjusted by Dr. Kim Jaquin, I'll feel great if she has to Google what the spine should look like. That will really bolster my faith in her skills!
Yes, I am being sarcastic here (what's new?), but memorization matters. Is Google a great tool? Of course! How else would I know how to make some kickin' enchiladas or why turtles need a proper basking platform/light combo!? Yet, I will dare to say that Google is not going to replace the need to memorize important facts that will pertain to your career or even how to operate a vehicle.
Blanket generalized statements like that on social media about education (and many other topics) really get under my skin, especially when I do a little background research on those who post them and see they have no real-world experience in that subject they are claiming to be an expert in.
Do your homework kids, don't just accept posts as fact.
And, last but not least, you will need to memorize some stuff in your life. It'll keep you employed and looking less like an idiot on the job site. Just sayin'. Ya can't always "Google" it.
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.
Starting year 23 as a Journalism educator. Photographer. Mom. Daughter. Nature-Junkie. Super Fan of Missouri State Parks and Conservation Lands. Plotting a nomad retirement. #blessed