Under the direction of Christy White, entering her seventh year as media teacher at Richmond Hill Middle School, students are challenged to think outside the box. Using a curriculum that currently covers broadcasting, graphic design, photography, marketing, professionalism, social media function, film making and editing, and animation, students are expected to use their minds, technology, creativity and problem-solving skills to produce work and learn real life skills along the way. These students are adapting to what a deadline means and White believes there is no better way to prepare her students for the next level of education and life. The RHMS Media Department and students are working hard to bring the news to their school with the goal of informing and updating the estimated 1,742 people that enter the building every day.
"When I was in high school, I took courses in architecture and drafting in addition to my college prep classes. Thanks to teachers who did not baby me, I graduated a well-rounded student, capable of thinking through a problem for myself and developing a solution. I am an independent thinker. Today’s students need to be able to develop the same skills," White said. Real world learning produces this kind of thinker within the classroom setting at RHMS. When up against a deadline, the team of students working to produce "The Black and Gold Magazine" were faced with a challenge they had to solve. The magazine was done and they hit a huge road block when preparing to send it out to the masses. They worked to develop solutions to get past this. Their hard work paid off as they recently published their first ever digital magazine.
White believes student-driven classes are essential in schools today. "Students are too often dependent on others for direction. I tell my students all the time that I am just here to make sure they do not burn down the building. I am only partially kidding. I want to give them the skills to be able to create whatever they can dream up, but the first thing I must teach them is that I am not going to give them the answers. They must change their mindset to believe that they can do whatever they set their minds to, even without a teacher directing them step by step. Failure is never a terrible thing, we only must teach students to keep going until they find a successful solution. When they do that, they are prepared for the real world and I am a successful educator," White said.
Eighth grade students Maggie Baker, Camdyn Newberry, Joshua Johnson and Chris Freeman all play key roles in bringing the news to RHMS. Soon, they will begin broadcasting every day and expected to stay on top of news worthy information to present live to the staff and students. These students are expected to collect information from the teachers and administration to write, direct and shoot live every day. Maggie and Camdyn are the faces in front of the camera and Joshua and Chris are behind the camera running the tech side.
"We have to make sure that everything is in the teleprompter, that all the slides are perfect, and that we speak clearly and pronounce names correctly so that everything comes out perfectly. If we mess up, we just must keep on going," said Baker, an aspiring Food Network pastry chef. Newberry, who one day hopes to live out her dream of being an actress, sits alongside Baker as they present the news. Both Baker and Newberry love the element of going live and count on the boys to handle any technical glitches that may arise. Johnson, an aspiring "astro space engineer," knows having the ability to use technology and problem solve will translate into his future career choice. "I like understanding what goes on behind scenes," Johnson said. Freeman hopes to one-day work in an animal-related field as a veterinarian or animal biologist. He also feels the skills he is learning will help him in his future. "Technology is used in every field," Freeman said.
Their main goal in doing this is to it inform other students of what is going on and what to expect. It also serves as a club that incorporates the tech side and or reporting/acting side. "It gives other students an opportunity to be involved and is this is a good alternative for them," Baker said.
"It is for us to gain experience and us students help remove some of the tasks of teachers having to state this information before each class," Johnson said. The school news was previously located in the media center and recently moved into White’s classroom, which has allowed students more opportunity to be part of the broadcast. "We want students to be able to film segments such as teacher interviews and sports highlights to replay them during the live broadcast. This was not possible before. Thankfully, my administration has been on board and Mrs. Stewart, our media specialist, has been an invaluable resource," White said.
Now, with the magazine in place and the daily news kicking off in the coming weeks, the media students will be challenged as they establish a routine of hitting deadlines and solving problems every day. But, White hopes to see the program continue to evolve in the coming years. "I expect this little class to become several classes. I teach six classes a day, 30 or so students each. There is so much talent in this school, it amazes me. The ideas, the passion, the drive. I sit back in my chair and let them amaze me. I hope to establish five different classes to meet the needs where this one class is sufficient now. I would love to see broadcasting, graphic arts, photography, marketing, all stand alone as separate classes to allow students to have a firm foundation before beginning high school," White said.