When I was in middle/high school, I ran my own newsletter called Newsapalooza (click for link). It was for middle school students and I had a staff made up of some of my friends and my sister (who is 3 years younger) and some of her friends. I ran it from 7th-10th grade as the owner, editor and publisher, and tried to come out with a new issue every month. I remember that for the first couple of months I couldn’t think of a name so I just called it Newsletter, which didn’t really have much of a ring to it.
My student staffers wrote book reviews and short stories and fun fact lists and recipes and fake advice columns. We even came up with a sort of secret handshake, and at the end of every year I came out with a Newsapalooza yearbook that included pictures from our meetings and writer biographies. I formatted everything on Microsoft Publisher. Every month for the first two years, I made my dad go to Staples and print out 100 copies of Newsapalooza that I distributed in school. For the last year, I published them online.
To this day, as a junior in college, I am still so proud of Newsapalooza. Getting to work alongside my friends and my sister’s friends, who I was able to bond with over this little newsletter and do stuff that I really liked to do like writing, editing, teaching, and publishing on my own terms, was the greatest. I miss it all the time.
Last year, Barbara (or as Sam Brodsky & I lovingly refer to her, Barb) Adams of the IC Writing Department sent out an e-mail asking students to apply to be an intern in the Trumansburg School District (about 30 minutes outside of Ithaca). The job of the intern would be to organize and teach students in the district feature writing/journalism, as well as put together a community newsletter in Trumansburg called The Trumansburg Troubadour (click for link). Very excited about the prospect of this internship, which I thought sounded very similar to what I’d done with Newsapalooza with a more new-sy and public relation-y focus, I e-mailed back right away, interviewed, and got the job.
Since August 2015, I’ve been interning in the Trumansburg School District as a teaching/editorial intern for the Trumansburg Central School District Foundation. I teach a student staff of about 6-8 students every week, as well as guide students who can’t come to the meetings online in how best to write and revise their articles. The youngest student I teach is 9, and the oldest is 16. They write about a variety of topics, like the Chris Bond Run, the Hangar Theater Project, Localvore Club, the new food services director, Robotics Club, and advice that high school seniors would give to high school freshman, and a lot of other topics.
During our weekly meetings, we focus on brainstorming, what the necessary components of an article are, the who what when where why and how of a story, how to interpret edits and revisions, how to use Google Drive, the types of questions to ask during interviews, how to ask questions in general, and even the differences between AP Style and MLA style. We came out with the 5th issue of the Troubadour in January under my guidance, the leadership of Molly Buck who is my sponsor on the TCSD Foundation Board, and help of Hanna Hertzler, an 11th grader at the high school, who is head illustrator and student editor-in-chief.
I am lucky that I was able to continue developing my passion for publishing and gaining experience in editing in the real world by interning with the Troubadour these past few semesters. The students I taught really care about writing and learning, as well as the community of Trumansburg. Teaching students who actually want to be taught and who want to actively participate was incredibly rewarding. We came out with a great issue this past winter, which you can check out if you click on the above link (it’s issue V).
While we are still in the process of finishing up our most recent issue, I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned the past few semesters. Enjoy!
- Getting people to participate and outreach is HARD! Especially when you are not from the area and don’t know the people very well.
- It takes time to gain the trust of students you’ve never taught before and create a community around that trust.
- English teachers are your friends when you’re trying to find students to write for you!
- Research the magazine/newspaper/newsletter you are working for beforehand so you can understand what it’s all about and what you’re trying to produce.
- Make sure that everyone is on the same page about article topics/ideas from the very beginning.
- If someone decides to write about something that’s not conducive to what Trumansburg is all about, it won’t work. If someone decides to write about a topic that is too similar to another person’s topic– that won’t work either.
- Plan out what you are going to teach every week.
- Plan out DEADLINES at the very beginning of the semester. **THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT**
- Send out weekly e-mails so everyone is on the same page.
- Check your e-mail all the time. Link up your e-mail accounts to your phone so you can check your e-mail and be there when student writers and their parents need you.
- Keep track of everyone’s names/e-mails. That way, when you send out weekly e-mails, everyone is on the same page.
- Have patience while teaching stuff (like AP Style) that people (like 9 year olds) have never heard of or learned about before.
- **Editing the writing of children is different from editing the writing of adults and college age students.**
- Be nice in your edits and revisions!
- Maintaining the voices of student writers is essential to each article.
- Be understanding and aware of situations for students that might arise that prevent them from making deadlines.
- Consistency is important. Weekly meetings or meetings every other week will remind people to get on track with their articles. They’ll also see you as a leader/mentor if you’re there for them consistently.
- Be comfortable and kind but maintain your status as a leader, a publisher, a teacher, and a professional in the classroom.