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Five steps for a great start to the school year

Posted by on Aug 1, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

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The typical to-do list of journalism teachers during the back to school season often includes setting up the newsroom, prepping lessons, attending professional development days and coordinating with editors and staffers. Whether that list lives in a mobile app, Google Doc or pretty new notebook, it’s usually a long one.

But adding these five things to the teacher to-do list will make for a great experience all year long. A little extra planning and outreach in August builds a foundation for students and colleagues that truly sets the tone for student press freedom, positive working relationships and increased awareness on campus.

Consider these for a great start:

  1. Get on the school calendar now for Constitution Day. Administrators often develop a list of upcoming events to distribute at staff in-service, for the school website, for parent communications and for posting on social media. Make sure Sept. 17 is listed, and begin the conversation with key partners on your campus about what activities you’ll plan and implement. Check out JEA’s set of Constitution Day lessons and activities here.

  2. Meet with any new teachers and staff members on your campus. Ideally, you can carve out a few minutes to introduce yourself and share about the student media program you advise. Who knows what journalism was like that their previous schools? Drop off copies of the students’ publication so your new colleagues can see what a great job students do. With just a brief conversation you can create the beginning of a positive relationship and help them understand that your students make the content decisions and take their roles as reporters seriously with a focus on truth, accuracy and integrity. If possible, invite them to stop by your room to see the media staff in full swing. 

    If possible, guide your editors as they prepare a brief introduction to new staff members, too. It’s great for new teachers to see students taking the lead, especially so they learn to contact students with story ideas or questions rather than coming to you.

  3. Incorporate the First Amendment in your welcome back activities. Make these part of any icebreakers, bootcamp sessions, editors’ planning meetings and other gatherings you have lined up for the next month. Incoming editors will follow your example; if you use law and ethics discussions as part of your first meet-up or work session together, they’ll do the same when training their new staff members.

    Even simple warm-ups like singing, rapping or reciting the First Amendment or using related T-shirts (like this one or this one) as special prizes will set the tone for a new school year. One simple activity in teams is to distribute envelopes containing the 45 words of the First Amendment on little slips of paper and having a race for each team to put the words in order correctly.
Quick warm-up activities like this one can help students learn the First Amendment while getting to know each other in small groups.

4. Add the First Amendment Press Freedom Award application to your editors’ to-do list. They’re probably in the process of determining the publication/distribution dates and deadline nights for the semester, so the timing is perfect for them to add the Dec. 15 application deadline. As we all know, what gets scheduled gets done. And having the award on their radar may lead to positive, necessary conversations from editors and staffers to educate their classmates, teachers and administrators throughout the fall.

5. Commit to teaching law and ethics. Plan lessons both for the start of the school year and to incorporate periodically all year long. Don’t rush into production with all attention on deadlines only to have students miss the significance of what they’re doing. Don’t apply a “one and done” unit in the first month and consider students’ learning complete. As you map out a scope and sequence, plan to revisit and layer important topics related to student press freedom and their rights and responsibilities.

The Law and Ethics module in the JEA Curriculum Initiative is a great place to start. You also can print the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for classroom use, or contact them to request a class set of bookmarks. The Student Press Law Center has great resources for educators, too. The key is to plan now and make it a recurring topic for discussion, reading, analysis, debate and/or practice in your journalism curriculum.

With a strong foundation and continuous practice, students make better, more informed decisions.

An adviser’s First Amendment passion is contagious, and the time invested now to accomplish these five tasks will pave the way for students and colleagues to follow your lead.

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Check out the new SPRC podcast

Posted by on Sep 30, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

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Looking to learn more about New Voices and the First Amendment? Check out SPRC’s first in a series of podcasts that will highlight issues of importance to empower student voices.

The first installment of “Conversations at the Schoolhouse Gate” features Neha Madhira from Prosper High School (Texas) and discusses her staff’s fight through prior review and censorship.

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Constitution Day is right time
to apply for FAPFA recognition

Posted by on Sep 17, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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by Lori Keekley, MJE
As advisers, we work to support student journalists on a daily basis.

Taking a moment today to apply for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award is a great way to symbolically show this support.

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Ways to celebrate Constitution Day 2018

Posted by on Aug 18, 2018 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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The Scholastic Press Rights Committee is again excited to provide lesson plans and activities to help you celebrate Constitution Day and the First Amendment. Constitution Day recognized Sept. 17 each year, and we have a trove of new and archived lessons and activities to help you raise awareness of the First Amendment’s rights and applications for students.

Take a look at the new lessons:

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Maybe #Firstonthefirst initiative can help move the needle

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Blog, Featured, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism | 1 comment

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Maybe it was last night’s reflection on Anthony Kennedy’s final day serving as a Supreme Court justice.

Or maybe it was because I’m still recovering from the latest State of the First Amendment survey.

In case you missed it, more than one-third of the survey respondents (40 percent) could not name a single freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only one out of the 1,009 people surveyed could correctly name all five freedoms.

That blows my mind, and I often think about what I can or should be doing differently to help move the needle outside the walls of my classroom.

So today I began what I’m calling #Firstonthefirst.

I made a commitment to talk to five strangers today and share with them about the First Amendment. I’m going to do it on the first of every month, and I hope you’ll join me.

It’s easy enough to visit with folks in line at Starbucks or the grocery checkout, or colleagues at school, or parents on the bleachers at your kiddo’s sporting event. A few minutes of conversation can make a huge difference. I want the people in my community to know the five freedoms and to have a better understanding of why the First Amendment matters.

To make a visual connection, I wore one of my First Amendment T-shirts, and I’ll do that for each #Firstonthefirst. There’s something about seeing those 45 words (or in the case of this shirt, my favorite of those 45) that makes it more memorable, and I hope to leverage the power of social media to spread this movement and get my students — and all of you — having these First Amendment conversations as well.

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