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Teaching advice

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by joe, Mar 1, 2007.

  1. joe

    joe Active Member

    I accepted an offer to teach an introduction to journalism class this fall at the local university, my first time teaching. It's the students' first real instruction, so some of the topics include inverted pyramid, narrative style, grammar and ethics. There also will be some multi-media aspects to the class, which mean I'm going to need to get up to speed in that stuff or at least have an idea of what I'm doing.
    I'd like to know how others have approached teaching. How did you structure the class assignments? What was the hardest aspect of teaching for the first time? What is something that seems obvious but might be overlooked? What surprised you about the class? Generally, what were your experiences like, and what can I expect?
  2. expendable

    expendable Well-Known Member

    Some free advice: Don't fuck the students. ;D

    And with that post, I'm no longer a newbie. :) :) :)
  3. Clever username

    Clever username Active Member

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's not confuse the man right off the bat. Only fuck the hot ones. Make sure they're legal, though.
  4. joe

    joe Active Member

    Had the over/under on that reponse pegged at six and took the over. Should have known.
  5. Breakyoself

    Breakyoself Member

    fucking the hot students should be a given (and was my initial thought)...for the non-hotties, the top of their head might look nice.
  6. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Show no fear. They can smell fear.
  7. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    I taught at Columbia College (Chicago) for a year, and that was frickin' hard, especially because Columbia's classes meet only once a week, three hours at a time.

    Anyway, the first thing you should do is talk to the actual professors to get some advice on how to teach. I talked for a long time with Columbia teachers to get a feel for the students' abilities, and what the goal of the class was supposed to be. Also, get a feel for how you're expected to approach grading -- are you supposed to knock someone down to a B because of a typo? Does your school take attendance, and grade down kids who miss class? (Columbia does.)

    Also, read over every inch of whatever textbooks and workbooks your students will be using. Make sure to check with professors, or anyone you know who has taught the class in the past, what the expected homework load should be.

    One nice thing, too, is that you can bring colleagues or other journalists in to speak to the class from time to time. Columbia, in particular, sells itself on the fact that it might not be Northwestern, but you come into contact with a lot of working journalists, who teach and visit there. For example, I brought in the guy who was the field reporter at the top of every 10 p.m. newscast on the local ABC affiliate, let him talk about his job, and let the students pick his brain.

    Finally, get to know your students. Not intimately. But take the first day and have everyone introduce themselves, maybe even write a short story about themselves. Then you can get a quick sense of who they are, and where they are. You can also find out where their comfort zones are, and push them beyond it. For example, Carmen DeFalco (recently bounced for Tom Waddle for the Chicago ESPN radio station's night host) was already establishing himself in sports radio when he was in my class. So when I had students cover beats, I gave him the dance department.

    (As an aside, one of my students was a dancer for the Jenny Jones Show. I didn't know Jenny Jones had dancers.)

    Hope this helps.
  8. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    Go up to the biggest kid in the room and knock the shit out of him. That way the rest of them will know you mean business.
  9. Take them to Dairy Queen.
  10. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    Otherwise, you'll be someone's bitch.
  11. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    This might be a stupid question, but how do you get a teaching gig? I would love to teach a J class, just don't know what channels to take.
    And I don't want to hired on the spot.
  12. Birdscribe

    Birdscribe Active Member

    I've been teaching J-100 at a small Division III school for the last four years. Given the fact it's a required GE class there, I have a captive audience of majors and non-majors every semester. So I take pains to tell stories and stress the fact that even though they may never write another story once they leave my class, they're going to know how the sausage is made and how the business works.

    That said, what I found that works is pragmatism. Teach the class with as much real-world experience as you can bring to the table. Tell stories of shenanigans you or your cohorts encountered that relate to the lesson at hand.

    I structured the assignments along the lines of What is news? inverted pyramid/summary ledes, organizing and developing the story/AP Style, Interviewing, Feature Writing, Libel and Ethics, Midterm, Obits/Press Releases, Broadcast writing/Press Conferences, Cops/Courts, City/Government, Sports/Business, Environmental/Editorial/Technology, Final.

    If the class schedule plays out where I can cover everything, I call in favors with guest speakers, preferably people I worked with who covered cops or government. They can talk about this far better than I can.

    Some of the more innovative assignments I give them are writing up 20 questions they'd pose to anyone in history, bringing in one of my former sportswriting buddies and turning them loose on him for an hour, then writing a story based on what they come up with, and the "Campus Walk," where we go for a walk around the campus and they have to find a story based on what they see on that walk. They do better on this than you'd think; I've learned a lot about the university just off that assignment.

    I also stress accuracy and deadlines. NO late works is accepted and misspelling proper nouns (i.e. names) reduces their scores by one grade for each misspelling. Incorrect facts result in an automatic failing of that assignment.

    Harsh? Absolutely. But I've had the department chair and the newspaper advisor both compliment me repeatedly for saying that the students who get through my class are often the best writers on the paper and generally know what they're doing.

    Plus, my student evaluations every semester typically average in the high 3s/low 4s out of a possible 5. I've had students e-mail me a year or two later, after they've graduated, to tell me how much they've appreciated my class and how much they've gotten out of it. So I know I'm doing something right.

    PM me for more details.
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