SRL Connected Educator of the Month: August 2017

John Parham teaches Digital Media, Film and TV and Web Development and Computer Applications and Design at Amphitheater High School. Parham holds a bachelor’s degree in media arts from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in career and technical education from Northern Arizona University. Before teaching at Amphitheater, he was an instructor at Chaparral Community College. Parham brought exciting ideas to this year’s Teacher Workshop and is excited to bring SRL to the club at his school this year. 

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?   

I want to teach my students to listen really, really well.  I think storytelling requires absorbing anecdotes and information from the world you experience.  Part of telling a story is recognizing that stories don’t come fully formed.  If a person is patient, and is willing to listen, a good story can be found anywhere.  

Would you rather live a year without radio or without television?

I’d rather live a year without radio, simply because Game of Thrones isn’t on the radio yet… However, I’d drop both for books.

How can student reports help promote a greater understanding of the world?

I believe students learn best by doing. The opportunities Student Reporting Labs gives students  to think and interact with stories, news, journalism and their world around them offers many chances to engage with topics outside their normal sphere.  SRL prompts our students to talk to their peers about issues not normally in their daily discussions.  More than that, journalism standards included in SRL ask our students to listen.  When people begin to listen to other voices, they also spark their own engagement with those ideas.  Gaining a greater understanding of the world around you begins with listening and engaging with ideas outside of your own mind.  I think SRL might be some of my students’ first opportunities to do that extensively.  And, as I mentioned, I believe students learn best by doing.

How can we get youth more interested in the news?  

First, I feel like we have to approach this goal by understanding that it will be hard.  Developmentally, adolescents are entering the stage of complex abstract thought, combined with starting to recognize their own place in their world.  Often times, that leads to critical self-evaluation, and subsequently, self-focus. That makes it difficult to make items that aren’t directly affecting them relevant.  So, that is where I start.  Whatever the issue is – out there –  it impacts them directly, here. Drawing simple, straight lines and showing why something matters to them, I think, is the first step towards interest in news.  A laugh or two won’t hurt either.

How can we teach youth to be more inquisitive in the world around them?  

Tap into their “so what?” response.  I think many of the smartest kids around immediately, in their own minds, ask “so what?” when told something, especially at school.  That is where a class, like journalism or science, can become an excellent place for growth.  Encourage kids to question and also to follow that path of questions to the bigger story.  Solutions are optional, and sometimes temporary, but encouraging that path of inquisitiveness is core.  I also think that exposure is essential.  That is always easier said than done.  But, if students can meet new people, go to new places and interact with new ideas, I think that can spark some inquisitiveness as well.

What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?  

I want my kids to experience success.  I want each of them to work hard and create something beyond what they thought was possible for themselves at the beginning of the year.  I work with students who often times see examples of low expectations around them, and who believe their potential is capped in a fixed mindset.  I don’t want it to be easy.  But, I want them, by the end of the year, to recognize what success feels like, and to deposit that feeling to improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.  The world is hard.  I want them to know, and to really believe, that they have the ability to succeed in it.  I think a program like SRL offers my students real opportunity, in a relevant, genuine and supportive way, to experience what it is to stretch beyond self-perceived limits and succeed.