The countdown to the revamped South Middle School website is on. The multi-media classes ran into some problems transferring photos from iphotos on our laptops to the Claris Home Page webpages. Thanks to Mike Sapp, the tech director for South, we are now able to get going.
Chelsea Banfield has been working diligently on the teacher pages, combining photos she took of the teachers with information they filled out from forms I sent them two or three weeks ago.
Emily Evans is designing the home page, which most likely will feature a picture of the school, our mascot the Eagle, links to other pages and a few other items.
Autumn Mauller has already put together a fantastic sports page and early next week we will be putting together the news page. The advanced communication arts class has already been working on writing stories for the news and sports pages under the guidance of student editors Autumn, Rachel Ryan, Sarah McDonough, and Lindsey Hamm. It has been an exciting project and will be one which we will continue to work on through the remainder of the school year.
Another exciting project has been the extra credit work being done by the communication arts classes. I wondered if they would care much for a project that is going to require them to work until they leave here in May 2004. Apparently, they are, though I'm not going to get overconfident about it.
All students have to do an extra-credit project, but they have a number of choice they can make as to what the project will be. Some of them have started writing novels. Others are working on books of short stories, two or three-act plays, books of poetry, or tripling their Accelerated Reader points. I have had several students stop by and show me their work and I have been impressed (though not surprised) by their industrious attitudes and by the quality of their writing. I have always believed that if you have high expectations, the students will come through for you (and for themselves). They have not been given a set number of pages they have to write. All they have to do is show each Friday that they have made progress during the week. Some will never finish what they writing, but some of them will, and hopefully, all of them will learn something by doing this.
I received another batch of e-mail today from my former students at Diamond and a few of them have signed the guestbook on Wildcat Central. I am really surprised, and very touched, that I am still hearing from so many of them. After I left The Carthage Press, it was very rare that I heard from anybody and I worked there for almost 10 years. I suppose I have been one of those rare teachers who receives an opportunity to know how students really think about him. The kids were always great to me, but they have been particularly wonderful since all of the mess started last summer.
I have a hard time understanding why The Joplin Globe can't play it straight where education news is involved. Today's page one featured an article about whether teachers are "highly qualified" under federal guidelines. One parent was quoted in the article saying, "Any good teacher would feel that their continued learning would be beneficial to anyone they teach." It's not a bad quote, but it really has no connection with the rest of the story and the woman who was quoted was the only parent quoted in the entire story. The message the Globe seems to be pushing is that the Joplin R-8 School District does not have qualified teachers. The box by the story indicates that 97.6 percent of the teachers in the school distrfict meet U. S. Department of Education guidelines. The article did not really come to grips with a "qualified teacher" is. (Not surprising since there is a wide range of opinions on that subject.)
The Globe's choice of headlines is also taken directly from the tabloid mode. "How qualified are teachers?" The headline leaves the distinct impression that the teachers around here must be people who would be better off begging on Main than being in front of a classroom full of children.
A better headline (and more accurate one, by far) would have stressed that all school districts in the Joplin metropolitan area have qualified teacher rates of 97.6 percent or above, nearly three percentage points above the state average.
My former publisher at The Carthage Press, Jim Farley, believed that a strong weekly newspaper, focusing on school and sports news, would flourish in Joplin. He was right then and it would still work now. People are looking for some kind of alternative, not one that won't print bad news, but one that believes that the thousands of good things that happen in the R-8 School District every day are also worth publicizing.