Dream Job.

It was a rough week.

I really thought that last Sunday’s meltdown would be the worst of it, but I was wrong, and the hits just kept on comin’.

Saturday I spent six hours at school for the last newspaper deadline of the year. I started doing this a couple of years ago when we switched printers and no longer needed seven business days between layout and delivery. Kids come in on Saturdays and get the bulk of the work done. Since we started doing this, they aren’t at school as late or as often during the week, and therefore, neither am I.

During Saturday’s work session, an editor and I were chatting about how technology has made layout so much easier. I told him that when I was student teaching, layout was more difficult because of how we had to print and then physically paste up the pieces on broadsheet grid paper. Another student asked, “Did you enjoy your student teaching experience here?”

And I told him the story that I’m sure I’ve written about before–how disappointed I was when I got my student teaching assignment because once I decided on a career in teaching, I was all about literature. I only wanted to teach literature and writing and grammar and everything that made English wonderful. When I learned I’d only be teaching one English class and the rest of my assignment was journalism, I almost asked for a new assignment.

But I’m a rule follower and a make-lemons-out-of-lemonade kinds of person, so I stuck with it.

“It changed my life,” I told him.

“So how do you feel about teaching journalism now?” he asked.

“It’s my dream job,” I said.

I didn’t even have to think twice before I said it. Despite knowing I have to say goodbye to seniors who’ve changed our program dramatically, despite frustrations at nearly every turn this week, it’s still my dream job.

I’m glad he asked that question, because my answer reminded me that I’m still where I want to be, where I choose to be. And knowing I choose to be here makes it just a little bit easier to handle the rough patches.

Encourage Artists.

I’m finally emerging from the yearly musical-induced hibernation and starting to resume a sense of normal routine, which includes writing here. And the first post back from hiatus is a bit of a rant.

If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you may have seen this 2016 video of University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma talking about body language of athletes. This week, he spoke about the importance of teammates.

Then there’s this video from former Wisconsin’s women’s basketball coach Bobbie Kelsey.

Even Senator Ben Sasse published his thoughts on losing, and the role parents have to play in helping students rise above disappointment.

I love basketball, and I love all of these messages, but I’m also conflicted.

Why is it so easy to like, share, and agree with these words in a sporting context, but we don’t often see the same sentiments expressed about other activities, or even–gasp–education? The skills that Auriemma, Kelsey, and Sasse say are vital for athletes, I say are vital for any artist.

I advise a student newspaper and website, and all of these videos have application to my staffers. They sometimes are so focused on their own work and lives that they sometimes forget that the work they do (or don’t do) reflects on everyone on staff. They sometimes get frustrated with stories not getting published or entered in contests, but they don’t practice their writing. They experience disappointment with editorial decisions, or they don’t place well in contests, and find resilience difficult to come by.

And I’ve seen the same behaviors with nearly every activity my colleagues coach and sponsor, and the same behaviors in classes.

So I’m glad these videos are out there and go viral–I just ask that when we share them, we realize the advice of these coaches can apply to pretty much anything our students engage in.

I tell my writing and photography students every semester that they only way they will improve is to practice. And practice, I tell them, is not always a grade, just like shooting free throws for 10 minutes after practice isn’t winning a game down the stretch. Though I’m quick to add that practice will improve their grades and skills just like shooting free throws after practice will win games down the stretch.

With the arts and humanities increasingly under assault from the highest levels, it’s more important than ever to apply these lessons from athletic leaders to our milieu. Budding writers, musicians, artists, photographers– they all need a sense of what it means to be a teammate, they all need to practice, they all need to spend some time away from their phones, and they all need to learn the resilience lessons that losing and disappointment teach.

The more practice, teamwork, and resilience we can instill in our artists is one way we can ensure the survival of the arts, not only in schools, but also in our communities. Because as much as I love basketball–and I do love it quite a bit–I also love reading and writing and concerts and plays.

Encourage artists the way we already encourage athletes.

Without Labor, Nothing Prospers.

I’m looking back at the 90+ drafts I have here on my blog. Here’s one I started last November. I originally titled it “Football From Where I Sit.” When I finished it tonight, I took a different direction. The new title is a quote from Sophocles.

Two years ago, one of the assistant football coaches brought a contraption down to my classroom and said, “I thought you and your journalism staff might be interested in this. You can use this website called High School Cube and broadcast games.”

The wheels in my mind took off. I researched the product and the website and thought we just might be able to make it work. A rabid sports fan myself, I’d been trying to build more sports coverage into the journalism program. That season, we just ran video for football. No audio. We taped up the mic as best we could and stayed absolutely silent in the booth. By basketball season, we added one microphone, shared by two commentators. By spring, we purchased an amp, soundboard, and headset mics.

So I (along with Stueve) spent several Friday nights last season in the press box at our school’s football stadium, teaching student journalists on the fly how to call a football game. We don’t have an official broadcast class, instead we have an ad hoc curriculum comprised of our journalism training, decades of watching sports, and the sports knowledge of the students covering the games. Most of the time, this does not feel like work.

From the height of the press box, I get a panoramic view of the players, the trainers, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the band, the crowd, and in the midst of it all–a wee horde of journalists.

I rarely sit during these games, too hopped up on adrenaline, hoping everything goes okay during the live broadcast, fixing things when they don’t. Yet my feet don’t hurt (until I am sitting in my car) and I don’t feel tired (until I get home). It’s hard work, broadcasting these games, but it’s work the kids enjoy.

Like many public schools, we keep doing more with less in our journalism department, but I’m okay with that. I hope that in addition to the journalism skills our students learn every year, that they learn the value of hard work. As our program grows, so does our follower, viewer, and reader audience. We prosper, because we labor. And if that means a handful of late Friday nights, then it’s worth it.

Goodbye, Again…

I spent two years of my life in Bill Williamson Hall, the fine arts wing of the high school where I graduated. I took theatre classes, choir classes, performed in countless concerts and one musical there, and every morning, the auditorium was my tribe’s gathering place. We would hunker down in the comfy seats, talk, sometimes sleep, sometimes pair off for stolen quiet moments. It was a refuge from the jungle of cliques and popularity contests. It’s where I convinced myself I could try and study performing in college, and even though that didn’t work out as a primary career choice, I do get paid for playing the piano and I have sung in public several times since. So performing stuck with me just the same.

That performance hall became my home away from home.

I don’t remember saying goodbye to it all.

This memory lapse hit me today as my managing editor stood before me, telling me goodbye in a way that made me cry (just a little). I watched her walk out of the room, the room that has–I hope–been a second home to her for the past three years. A place where she felt safe, a place where she learned not just about journalism, but about herself and about life.

And I was suddenly quite sad that I couldn’t remember an equally emotional goodbye to my own high school second home. Part of that could be age…I said goodbye to Bill Williamson Hall 25 (!?WTFHowdidthathappenIstillfeel16) years ago and perhaps my own emotional sendoff is filed away as a memory I no longer need.

But even though that memory is blank, the lessons I learned in my second home are as fresh in my mind as they were 25 years ago.

I hope in 25 years, my managing editor –and the other seniors I’ll say goodbye to tomorrow–finds her sadness about leaving Room 426 forgotten, instead replaced by her commitment to write, to educate others, to be kind, to fight injustice, to love.

Because that’s what I’ll remember about her.

April 25.

Twenty-five days ago I planned to blog every day. And I did really well until last week. I did not plan very well, even though in the back of my head I knew the last two weeks would be rough.

Since last Thursday, I have been immersed in journalism adviser duties. When we returned from state journalism at 6:45 tonight, I took a breath and thought, “Whew. Nothing journalism until…oh….”

I forgot our final deadline is upon us.

So many things have fallen through the cracks the past week. I am scatter-brained on a level I can’t ever recall reaching. I’m in the home stretch of the 2016-2017 school year, but it doesn’t feel like it. The end-of-year motivation and focus I usually feel hasn’t kicked in yet.

Today I realized I made a couple of big mistakes. I’m trying to focus on the wins though–literally. Three students placed at state journalism. I’m proud of them and their hard work. And the mistakes? I did my best to rectify them, and I have the hope and promise that tomorrow will be better.

I haven’t been in the building since last Wednesday, and I’m actually looking forward to seeing my students and catching up with them. I’ll grasp at that feeling, make a to-do list, and hope my brain picks up its scattered pieces and starts working right again.