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The Whiteboard Jungle: The good news is there's something to learn

October 25, 2013|By Brian Crosby

I know what many of you expect me to address this week, the recent headline-grabbing story about a teacher at Hoover accused of sexually assaulting a student. After all, I work there and that teacher was a colleague of mine.

However, I'd like to dial down the sensationalism of it to show how something negative can produce something positive.

I've been in charge of the school newspaper, the Tornado Times, for 22 years, a responsibility I don't take lightly. My philosophy in teaching journalism has been to provide students with the right amount of knowledge and technology so that they can do their jobs effectively as real journalists.

"Empowering students" is a clichéd phrase that often appears in school slogans, but is an actuality in my classroom.

When real-life issues intersect with classroom instruction, that is when the teachable moment occurs, when learning comes alive — not from a book, but from an experience. Any educator worth his mettle is on the lookout for real stories to make the book-learning relevant to the student.

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I've been employed at Hoover long enough for six student cycles or 29% of the school's existence, so I've seen my share of the school's highs and lows. And so has the student journalist.

When surviving alumni from the school's early years drove in from out of town to celebrate the school's 75th anniversary, we memorialized their stories.

When a young man's life was cut short across the street from the school due to a fight, we shared the grief from his friends and family.

When Anita Siraki was in the race of her life to become the fastest girl in the country, we flew a reporter to Florida to cover it (she ended up coming in second).

When an arsonist caused $3 million in damage, forcing students to be bused off campus to attend classes, we stood alongside journalism brethren from the Glendale News-Press and the Los Angeles Times speaking to the fire chief and capturing the damage.

In every one of these situations, it has been the students, not me, who crave to take the photos and to get the quotes. They have the drive to own the story; after all, it is a story on their campus.

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