Today marks the official start of the third week of school at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, Utah, even thought it’s only the second calendar week – the four-day block rotation means I only see students four days a week, instead of 5, and allows me at least one daily plan period, instead of teaching 6 classes back-to-back. On A and B days, I teach five classes and on C and D days, I only have four. It’s nice to have a break in the middle of the day like today (an A day.) On B and C days, I have first period prep, which I’m using to make sure my lessons are in order for the day. Then, on D days, I have two prep periods, so there seems to be just enough time to have everything prepared in between classes. I’m excited teaching journalism at the high school level and I’m always happy to see them; I’m doing my best to learn all 143 of their names and personally greet them when they walk in my classroom. I want to earn their respect and remind them constantly how important journalism is to our democracy.
Tell the young high school kids keep dreamin’ because they sure do come true. – Drake
In the middle of class yesterday, as we were discussing the differences between hard and soft news stories, I pulled up a story about the brush fires in Utah and noticed a red breaking news banner across the top of the website about the shooting death of two journalists in Virginia. I was just trying to explain how new stories are written with different tones, and there I was standing in front of ~30 9th graders staring at the TV in stock. I was not prepared for this teachable moment to come so soon, and I thought to myself, “This is getting to be a dangerous profession,” but I couldn’t just tell them that. I reminded them that we have a duty to report the truth and went home to prepare today’s lecture about the freedom of the press. We talked about government interference and how photographing is not a crime; we talked about the BBC reporters who “were reporting from the scene of the crash when they were told by police to delete their video footage.” I was happy telling them their rights as a journalist and how sometimes, police can (unlawfully) interfere with your reporting and threaten to confiscate your materials. And, if you don’t obey their orders, they can have you arrested (which then becomes a story in itself.) But, back to the First Amendment and the freedom of the press: “We have to know and defend our rights as journalists. Would a police officer hand his gun over to you if you demanded it? Your camera is the same as that officer’s gun. You never surrender it. Ever.”