Back when I coached speech, I really struggled to maintain a balance between teaching my students skills, allowing them some creativity, and guiding them toward what judges wanted to see. It eventually became nearly impossible for me to balance those–if I allowed my students to make some unorthodox choices, they were often denied state and national awards. But if I forced them into choices that pleased judges, their performances were a tad inauthentic.
Now that I’m a newspaper adviser, I’m faced with the same predicament. Do I let my students really make their own choices (and therefore make mistakes)? Or do I proofread every little thing, suggest every layout, monitor all story ideas, all in an attempt to “play to the judges”?
I talked about this with Stueve, my compatriot who advises the yearbook, and we decided we would take a page out of Eddie Vedder’s playbook.
At the 1996 Grammy Awards, Pearl Jam won an award, and as he “accepted” the award, Vedder acknowledged that at the end of the day, awards mean nothing. He was a little more colorful than that, of course, but he speaks the truth. We do what we do because we love it, not because we want to win awards.
So Stueve and I plan to let our kids make the choices, trust their decisions but guide them when necessary, and if we’re recognized by anyone outside our building, then great.
But if not, we’ll just be happy we get to work with some of the best kids in the building in creating something absolutely beautiful.
Full disclosure: today was State Journalism. One of my students came in 6th in column writing; a different student actually won our district in prelims of column writing. I’m terribly proud of them both.