The plot and title for my next book came to me as I was driving back to Carthage tonight after visiting my parents.
I had been thinking over another idea, but I wasn't too thrilled about it. This one will be a lot of fun to write (and hopefully, a lot of fun to read, as well).
I plan to finish up the links page on room210.com tomorrow, as well as updating the About Communication Arts page to include this week's assignments. I will begin working on the Links for Teachers page sometime this week.
Students in the CA classes will continue working on their research papers on the Holocaust this week, as well as testing over "The Diary of Anne Frank," and watching an A&E Biography video over her short life.
I have tried, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to sstop dwelling on what was done to me by the superintendent and school board at Diamond, but things keep happening that bring those bad memories back to light.
One of the biggest problems I have had has been with the new high school drama teacher there who seemingly is obsessed with me, though I only met him for about two minutes last year.
He has tried to make students feel like they are being disloyal to him if they keep in touch with me. This probably comes from the fact that he is responsible for the content on the school's official website, while I have continued to make my site, Wildcat Central, available.
He has also criticized my reporting abilities to the students, which is not proper. I will admit that I do not have a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. All I have is 22 years of actual experience, more than 100 awards, including national, regional and state awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, and sports writing, and more than 15 years as a managing editor at daily and weekly newspapers. My critic, as far as I can tell, has not worked for a real newspaper since he was in college and worked nights at The Joplin Globe about 30 years ago.
This man has sent a number of e-mails to me this school year, maintaining an air of politeness, but carrying a veiled threat. His last one, which came a couple of weeks ago, was to correct some faulty information that is printed about him on my website.
I have written, accurately, that he is being paid $37,000, considerably more than nearly all of the veteran teachers at Diamond. That has been a big thorn in the side of the teachers, and understandably so. He has not questioned anything I have printed about the amount of money he makes.
I have also pointed out, again accurately, that he has only two years of teaching experience. He counters by noting that he taught for eight years while he was in the Navy and that his students were just out of high school. I was aware of this, but even though apparently the superintendent took this into consideration when he gave him his outlandish contract, it doesn't change anything. Eight years of teaching adults who have volunteered to be in the service is nowhere near the same thing as teaching kids who are forced to come to school day after day.
I spent 14 years teaching high school and college students journalism through a program I ran at both The Lamar Democrat and The Carthage Press, but those years do not count toward my public school teaching experience. This is my fifth year as a public school teacher. It is Mr. Burnett's third year. He is a great salesman, that no one can deny. He talked the Diamond school district into paying him considerably above the salary schedule.I don't hold that against him.
What I do hold against him is this unreasonable vendetta against me that he has carried into the classroom and the harm he has done to the journalism program at the school.
Students who were greatly interested in journalism when they were in middle school no longer have that desire. Journalism is a noble calling, even though it is hard defending it against the excesses of the national (and sometimes the local) media. A journalist has the ability to shine light into the darkness and make sense of things that are incomprehensible. One of the biggest thrills of my journalism career is that 12 of the high school and college students who worked for me under the training program received national, state and regional journalism awards, with eight of them earning those awards while they were still in their teens. The only thing I did was make the assignments, give them encouragement and make sure they had the tools to succeed. The awards were due to their skill and hard work.
I have been worried about the high school journalism program at Diamond ever since the teacher e-mailed me last year and told me he wasn't much into the writing aspects of his job. (And I do still have that e-mail if that statement should ever be denied.) He said he was more into working with the students on doing television and making videos.
I probably wouldn't even have mentioned any of this, but I know at least one very talented young lady, a freshman who reads this blog, who has written in her own blog about how she has lost her enthusiasm for journalism. Alicia Bradley is someone who can make her mark as a writer whether it be as a journalist or as a novelist. I hope she doesn't let one bad experience sway her from what could be a very fulfilling school activity (if not eventually a career) for her. The kind of depth and perception that she shows in her writings is the kind that should be encouraged by faculty, family, and friends. How much value would the Diamond R-4 school system have if it could claim it produced a Pulitzer Prize winner or a best-selling novelist?
Give her a computer and get out of her way!
On a related note, I read an article today that was published in the Tuesday Neosho Daily News, talking about the new middle school newspaper at Diamond. The article had comments about how the students didn't think a newspaper could be put out again without Randy Turner, who sponsored it last year. That article was lifted from the school website, where it has been since long before Christmas break. Only one issue of the paper was ever put out, after the students kept badgering the teacher to do it (because they had put out the newspaper in the same class last year when I was teaching it.) No editing went into the stories beyond the student level and they received no guidance from the teacher, from what other teachers and the students tell me. Indications are the new middle school newspaper may be an orphan, with no followups to come. That's a shame. Those kids worked hard last year. Again, the interest probably will no longer be there.
Thank God I'm at South. These kids also deserve encouragement and support and they have some wonderful people, both at the faculty and administrative level, who are going to make sure they get it. It's a good feeling to be part of a system like that.
Speaking of newspapers, I could have done without the item in The Newton County News Wednesday in which one of its columnists told everyone that the only person she knew who had a birthday on Leap Day was Randy Turner. Thank God she didn't say I was going to turn 12.
I still remember when I turned 11 while I was in my first year teaching at Diamond. Karen Loewe, one of the English teachers at the school, called KSYN and said I was celebrating my 12th birthday. No, Karen. This is number 12, three weeks from today.
Natural Disaster may make a comeback in the near future. I received a call from H. J. Johnson last week, asking us to sing at a festival sscheduled for the first Saturday in June on the square in Carthage. We also have a standing invitation to perform at Burney Johnson's monthly show at the community building in Tipton Ford. I am eager to get back to performing, especially now that I have the energy that I didn't have the last several times Natural Disaster performed.