SRL Connected Educator of the Month: October 2017

Bernice Young in NewsHour’s studio during SRL’s 2017 Teacher Workshop in Arlington, Virginia

When Oakleaf High School students learned that their teacher had been selected as SRL’s Connected Educator of the Month, they immediately took to Twitter to post congratulatory tweets with endless photos of their fearless leader, Bernice Young. As one of SRL’s newest Labs, Oakleaf High School is quickly becoming one of the program’s most recognized through students’ engagement in assignments and on multiple social media platforms. We found out from Young why she is committed to SRL’s mission and amplifying her students’ voices.

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?

My teaching philosophy is to encourage all my students to begin with the end in mind. I also believe it is important for each story to have a beginning, middle and end to allow the viewer to have the opportunity to gain the full understanding of the story. A “hook” is also vital in my opinion, because if you tell the audience everything your story is about within the first 15 seconds, there isn’t a need for them to hang around and stay tuned. Instead, if you use a “hook,” to hook your audience, it opens the door to allow you to surprise them and keep them guessing.

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

Student journalism is the key to helping the world have a better understanding of what’s going on in the world through the eyes of an individual, especially the youth who happen to have their voices silenced. I believe students of all ages have a lot to say and simply need to be encouraged to express themselves in a range of different genres. Student journalism allows students who are curious, concerned about issues affecting their peers, communities, and the world the opportunity to verbally, and visually express themselves, along with individuals who have a story to tell. I happen to believe everyone has a story to share with the world. Student journalists have a unique way of explaining issues and breaking them down to the core, which opens up the eyes of the oldest individual and non believers because they immerse themselves into their stories and make sure the world listens to them. In addition, they know how to get and hold the audience’s attention to get their point across. Sometimes, they do it non verbally, in written words on paper, by using body language, verbally, and with music. In other words, they know how they want to be treated. Therefore, they are committed to spreading their message or the message that needs to be conveyed at the time. Not to mention, they’re simply fearless. What do they have to lose. Absolutely, nothing. They’re young and learning everyday which is so important because they’re not restricted. Instead, they live with the burden of getting it right because society doesn’t always do the right things for everyone.

How can we get youth more interested in the news?

I believe we can get more youth interested in the news by giving them opportunities at an early age. Students should be allowed to produce the news in elementary school, along with learning about discerning what’s real and what’s fake. The seed needs to be planted early and for a lot of young students it will grow with them. I also believe they need to be able to compete in competitions and learn at an early age that they have a voice that is worth listening to. We need to explain the power they have at an early age and allow them to explore it along with explaining the Bill of Rights and asking them questions about their thoughts about what currently going on in the world. How do they feel about our current society. What would they change if they could change anything and why.

What would life look like without public media?

Dreadful. I can’t even imagine not having access to public media. I grew up watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and Sesame Street. I reflect on what I learned from those television shows still to this day. They were basic things but in my opinion they’re still important. Public Media allows everyone free access to learn about so many different topics and genres. Life would look like Russia without Public Media. All the information that’s shared is controlled and it would be like being brainwashed. Creativity would suffer. Depression would rise even higher than it is now. I don’t want to think about what my life would be like…

What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?

I hope to be able to accomplish student growth in the journalistic field with the help of Student Reporting Labs. I want my students to be able to see and work alongside professional journalists and learn from them first hand. It’s important for students to be able to see themselves fulfilling their dreams and I believe working with professionals that have dreamt the same dream and made their dreams come true will encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and believe in their abilities more. It’s vital for students to experience professionals performing their dream jobs and having the opportunity to ask them questions about how they went about achieving them. First hand experience is priceless and the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs allows my students to experience first hand what a professional journalist looks like, how they sound, and explore the things they have in common.

Bernice Young with her students at Oakleaf High School in Florida.