SRL Connected Educator of the Month: February 2018

Tom Collins, who joined SRL in 2014, has always taken incredible initiative in creating new and exciting learning opportunities for students. At his school, Almond-Bancroft, which is about 150 miles northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tom combined his English degree, teaching background, and library-media skills to start a new class called English Media. This year, Almond-Bancroft is one of 23 labs participating in SRL’s STEM curriculum, which requires teachers to complete two student-produced stories over the course of the school year. This structure can be challenging for teachers like Tom, whose course is only a semester long. But this past fall, Tom achieved the impossible by helping his class produce final videos for both assignments in only one semester. SRL had a chance to speak to Tom about his passion for teaching media to young people.

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling? 

My teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling is that every single person has a story to tell. When I was a kid, I always loved to listen to adults tell real stories about life. Usually, that story was geared to relate to us in some way. Nowadays, we have so many outlets to see and hear stories. There’s radio, podcasts, television, the Internet, and we still have people willing to tell good stories to others. I want to tell good stories, but I also want to teach people how to tell stories because everyone has a story to tell.

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

Student journalism helps promote a greater understanding of the world because many students are stuck in a bubble of their own worlds or their own minds. Sometimes the only news students get comes from Facebook or Instagram posts. Student journalism classes allow young people to look at the world (even if it’s just in their towns) through a lense and through the skill of storytelling. Journalism is a craft that can bring empathy and sympathy into a person’s mind as stories are experienced. Journalism is about understanding different people, different cultures, and maybe compare those new understandings with himself/herself.

How can we get youth more interested in the news?

We can get more youth interested in the news through caring people, like those who work for PBS NewsHour and allow Student Reporting Labs to continue. It’s because of PBS, NPR, WPR (and all of the affiliates) who let youth voices be heard. If students like mine are able to see people like them be professional and produce news and explain events with care and wonder, more youth will become more interested in the news.

What would life look like without public media? 

Without public media, I feel money would lead what we see and hear in the media and news outlets. News, in my opinion, would be all about sensationalizing what happens in the world. People would be drawn in by a big and horrible thing that happened in the world, and then the newscast would end things with a puff piece about a cat or dog that is saved by a brave person…and this story would end things to soften the blow of the news piece(s) that led the way in order to get people to watch and raise ratings. Phew! That’s a massive answer, I know. However, that’s what I believe.

What do you hope to accomplish with SRL?  

With SRL, I hope to inspire students to want to continue working in media. I want my students to care about stories and people. I want my students to take their experiences in SRL and remember them as their life continues, and I hope a positive difference was made in their school lives due to this SRL opportunity.