Give yourself the gift of time…for learning

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“You can’t teach what you don’t know.” It’s something my friend and mentor Tony Willis used to say, and I couldn’t agree more.

The responsibilities of a journalism adviser get bigger and more complicated by the minute as we watch the constant changes in media and technology. There’s so much we need to know in order to teach, train and advise our students. As I scan links shared by friends on Twitter, scroll through questions and comments on JEAHELP and point my students to outstanding publications and resources on the Internet, I’m reminded of what I don’t know.

At a deadline work night last week, the entertainment editor had questions for me about art for a music review of the Taylor Swift album on her page. I knew the answer but started to hesitate in my explanation, so together we pulled out our a copy of Law of the Student Press and looked it up together. It felt good. In fact, I noticed a whole new section in that particular chapter and found myself reading, rereading and thinking about it later, wondering why I hadn’t spent more time with the newest edition of this book and some others I recently got at a convention.

Of course, the answer is time.

That’s why I pencil in a little time over winter break each year to take an online class, view a few webinars or dive into one of my mystery topics. Last winter, it was Soundslides and Audacity. And I’ve had plenty of little weekend lessons this fall, finding a few hours here and there to read articles or view tutorials on things that pop up in my teaching. The topic doesn’t really matter–it’s the idea of making time to learn something we know our students need or want. For me, it only happens because I add it as a line item on The List and include it on my calendar as an assignment, a must-do.

If you’re wondering how to use Creative Commons and get music for use in a slide show or broadcast, the upcoming winter break is a great time to find out. Have questions about what makes a good publications policy and why you need one? Explore other policies for a few hours and return in January with a plan to address it with your staff. Learn more about copyright and trademark. Study how the pros are implementing social networking guidelines at their media organizations.

Why wait until the next workshop or convention to learn something new? There’s tons of great resources available for free, and if you carve out a little time here and there, a little bit can make a big difference.

Sarah Nichols, MJE

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