Almost finished with a frustrating project

One of my tasks as a native English teacher has been continuing the English newspaper class started by my predecessor.  This has been a fairly frustrating project from the start.  On my very first day, I was shown a two-page printed newspaper, and told that I had to edit some things before it could be published.  I had to find the file on the hard drive, replace a photo, and make some minor tweaks to the layout.  I’d never used Microsoft Publisher before, and couldn’t read the Korean menus, but I’m fairly tech-savvy and managed to get it sorted out.

Then the real fun began.  I was told that I would teach a small class 3 days a week, with no co-teacher.  The end result of this class should be another issue of the newspaper.  The rest was up to me.  Along the way, I was given several other assignments.  For the first few days, we prepared a script for a skit contest, which was later cancelled.  We spent several days in October making decorations for the classroom (because a comittee was coming to inspect the school).  In between these projects, I focused on newspaper-related topics.  We learned about formal and informal English, the use of statistics, and the writing style expected in a newspaper.  This ended up being one of my favorite classes.  I was a little unsure of myself, but the kids were hard-working and spoke excellent English.  They made things easy.

About half-way through October, we picked topics for the newspaper, and began to work on stories.  At this point, I was assuming this was a regularly-scheduled class, and would continue until final exams (the first week in December).  I was wrong.

The third week of October, I was told that my class would conclude Oct. 31st.  I would then have November/December to assemble the paper and get it printed.  This left me only 6 class periods to actually finish the articles.  I had planned for 12-18 classes.  I recruited Erin to help me work with the kids, and we got busy.  In the end, my students did some fairly impressive work.  I had 9 stories (1 from each kid).  Topics included the local English contest, a new soccer team in the province, the Large Hadron Collider, and the sub-prime mortage crisis.  Given the timeframe, it was very impressive.

On the very last day of the class, our co-teacher asked me what topics the students wrote about.  I explained that they chose a variety of stories; some were school-related, others dealt with local, national, or international issues.  I was told that it is a school newspaper, and as such, it should be about the school.  I didn’t say anything at this point, and it hasn’t come up since.  The kids did fine work, and the school should be proud of it.

In the last couple weeks, I have typed the articles that were hand-written and fixed typos and minor errors.  I contacted the students to approve any changes.  I got the text into Publisher, and spent a few hours adjusting the layout.  I found a couple photos to use (under Creative Commons licenses, of course).  It’s been a surprisingly time-consuming project, but it’s almost done.  I’m waiting on a couple photos, and then I’ll need to make some final tweaks to the layout.  I was convinced that the end result would be pretty crappy, but I think it looks OK.  Next semester will be better, but I’m proud of it.  I promise I’ll post a PDF when everything is finished.

Even if the students got nothing out of it, the entire class has been educational for me.  I’m starting to realize how difficult it is to plan a cohesive series of lessons.  Coming up with ideas that are interesting, useful, and build towards a final product is a hell of a challenge.  It’s also been a real eye-opener to learn how time-consuming a small project can be.  I’ve certainly got a new respect for good teachers.  Effective lessons are rarely easy to execute, and teaching energetic students while meeting the expectations of supervisors is a frustrating and sometimes impossible task.

I guess that’s why I’m making the big bucks…


4 Responses to “Almost finished with a frustrating project”

  1. Cla on December 3rd, 2008 6:38 pm

    Well if you weren’t absurdly rushed it wouldn’t be a proper newspaper experience at all. :) That’s awesome you’re teaching them all about the wonderful world of journalism. It is pretty sweet. I’d love to see the finished product. Did they talk to any of the teachers/students about their topics?


    Clay Reply:

    Whoops, forgot the Y


    mike.sapak Reply:

    Yeah, I figured they were getting the true journalism experience. The nearly-finished product is posted now.

    We discussed topics in class, but as far as I know, they didn’t really talk about them with anyone else. I’ll probably get reamed out for allowing them to write about the wrong topics.


  2. The (almost) finished newspaper : on December 5th, 2008 12:14 am

    [...] If you missed my previous post about the school newspaper, you can read it here. [...]

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