Smells of baking, the sofa, football game on TV and a good book – Not

Today is one of those days – bit of a chill in the air, but the sun is shining – that make you wish for the warm, yeasty smell of bread coming from a sparkly clean kitchen while you dig into a good novel with a football game in the background and nothing else demanding your attention.

But there is no bread baking, there is no sparkly clean kitchen (though the dishwasher is working on a load) and there is a list as long as my arm of ‘stuff’ that needs doing. So what’s a gal with a long to-do list to do? Make sure there’s enough fodder on the list for organized procrastination. First on the list after ‘lunch’ is ‘update blog.’ That will put the grading off a while longer, especially with such items as ‘laundry,’ ‘grocery list,’ and ‘bake something sweet’ taking priority over the stack of spelling tests, study guides and paragraphs.

So, blog.

It’s been about three weeks.

When I left you last, I was trying to recover from a serious publishing faux pas that had me and the newspaper staff in hot water. We admitted mistakes, explained our original intent and how it went wrong, apologized a lot, set new policies, and began the process of a new issue, while continually trying to over think every idea and every word (is over thinking even possible at this point?). Our worst fear – being put under prior review – has not come true, so we are back on task to prove we deserve the freedom we have earned by demonstrating the responsibility we take.

In the previous weeks, I’ve put in numerous hours trying to catch up on grading, getting the index proofs for last year’s yearbook edited and submitted (done!), getting marketing materials ready to print so we can begin a very late sales campaign for this year’s book, and generally lots of details no one realizes have to be taken care of and that take time. The item I’m most proud of is getting my news staff manual printed and bound. Although I pretty much required the staff to demonstrate awe and appreciation, it seemed sincere enough, as they flipped through and pointed out items they liked or wanted to comment on. It was a good move.

At some point during this time, I made my way to the main office to visit with my mentor and assistant principal, who held this adviser post before me, about a presentation we were giving at a high school journalism conference at Oklahoma State University. I was tickled that we managed to spend about an hour talking about this fantastic/scary job. I know she is busy, and I certainly am, but I think it was time well spent. I feel better about mistakes I have made, we plotted out our presentation, and I left just generally feeling better about my job than I had in a few weeks.

The trip to OSU was this week, and the presentations went well, I think. Our focus was on student press freedom and responsibility, the old prior review versus public forum argument. It seems that public forum is what every staff wants, but there is so much responsibility and risk that comes along with that, and after last month, I am more cognizant of that than ever. The participants were as mesmerized as I usually am by my partner’s energy and frankness, the stories she had to tell and her bravery and toughness. She is one of very few who is able to speak from the adviser perspective and from the administrator perspective. I know she inspired me, and I think she inspired some of them as well. For my part, I went practical, and advised my listeners to have policies in order (showed off my staff manual and told how I developed it) as well as a network of professionals to count on for advice. I discussed reading every piece before publication with not only a reporter hat, an editor hat and an adviser hat, but a metaphorical administrator hat, ad client hat and parent hat. The key word was ‘perspective.’

I did a second presentation with some staff members about how to cover sensitive issues in the school newspaper and what to do about getting sources for those stories. The room was crowded for that one, and I had some students come up after the session for a photograph of us and another couple of students asked us about our non-prior review status and took a copy of our paper. I offered to put them on our exchange list if they would contact us. I guess our set up and the things we try to cover really is unusual and we are to be somewhat envied – as long as I keep on top of things. Oh, for more time or fewer other responsibilities.

In the midst of getting ready for those presentations and the field trip with 23 students in general, I also managed student body retake picture day and wore my ‘mom’ hat as we senior moms practiced for the senior mom dance for the pep rally and I put together a poster for my youngest. Oh, and I taught classes and made sub plans and had a work Saturday for the yearbook staff. Did everything but keep up with grading.

That being about as far as I can stretch this particular piece of procrastination, I think it’s time to put something sweet in the oven, rotate a load of laundry and nest into a spot for some … grading.


About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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