This is #9 in a bi-montly series by NCTE member Alana Rome.
This week, I am participating in a Leadership Associates Program at Montclair University as part of its teacher renewal program. In preparation for our weeklong endeavor, we were asked to read several articles on leadership, civic learning, and democracy within schools. One article that particularly got my attention was “What Does It Mean to Educate the Whole Child?” by Nel Noddings.
Noddings asks, “What are the proper aims of education? How do public schools serve a democratic society? What does it mean to educate the whole child?” In my notes, I wrote a list of words and phrases I thought answered Noddings’s questions: more than skills, passion, inquiry, lifelong learning, morals and values.
All of these ideal aims for our students and our democratic society can be learned, explored, and nurtured in our schools’ journalism classes.
More Than Skills
Scholastic journalists learn more than skills to assess in the classroom; they build relationships within their communities that they normally would not; they bolster their self-confidence in writing, values, and speaking; they gain a sense and knowledge of the world around them.
The more students read, think, and write about what’s happening in their own schools, communities, and worlds, the more they cannot help but feel invested in these things. These happenings affect them and their loved ones. They realize quickly that their reporting and journalism can truly affect change because the administration and community is actually listening to them. They also may gain a passion for talking to people, finding the story, getting to the truth, finding unique story angles to call their own, or maybe even writing.
What is really going on here? Do I trust what I’m being told? Whose story do I want to tell? What is the best way to influence or emotionally touch my readers? What matters most to my readers and my community? How can I affect change, make people feel, and make them want to affect change, too? Journalism allows students to not only figure out how to use their reporting to help facilitate change in schools and communities, but it also teaches them to consider their audience and question what they read and its source.
I’d be hard pressed to find people who immerse themselves into the news for a journalism class and never read another article again once that class is over. Once someone gets a taste for knowing what’s going on in the world, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to it afterward. Ideally, students will leave a journalism class with the “news bug,” albeit a healthy, skeptical one.
Morals and Values
Journalists are often called “watchdogs.” They safeguard citizens from the potential misdealings of businesses and government. Journalism instills the idea that truth is the utmost priority in news and telling stories. Representing people in the correct light, respecting someone’s privacy, helping bring to light injustices, being courteous to sources, honoring a deadline, and protecting the identity of sources if needed. All these are taught to student journalists early on, and whether or not they pursue journalism as a career, those morals and values remain with them.
Alana Rome is an English teacher, newspaper adviser for Trailblazer, and soon-to-be journalism teacher at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, NJ. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in English education, grades 7-12, both from Iona College. Alana is a contributor of English Leadership Quarterly and has provided professional development sessions at EdScape, Global Education Conference, and Columbia Scholastic Press Association on a variety of topics, including global awareness, authentic assessment, classroom technology integration and student goal-setting.