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Reports, Commentary & Creativity from Eastside Media Arts Students

CTE: It’s About More Than Career Skills

February is Career and Technical Education Month. It’s an opportunity to not only share our  mission to prepare students for enriching careers, but it’s a chance to also share the value CTE places on instilling service to others.

Our Skills USA members look for opportunities to give back to the community.  This month our group is organizing a donation drive for the homeless population in Lexington. The Catholic Action Center has been serving then community for nearly 18 years.  Our students are working to fill their need for fresh fruit, juice, and coffee mugs.  While they may seem like small items some may take for granted, these items mean a lot to those in need.

There are many ways to give.  From a tangible item, cash, or giving of one’s time, there are so many ways to give back.

The New York Times published this comprehensive Guide to Giving.

I encourage you to take the time to look through it and open your eyes to the many ways you can give back and make a difference.

Comment below if you have found a rewarding opportunity to support your community.

StoryCorps: Where Stories are Shared

I say it from the first day of school, “Everyone as a story to tell.”  It’s true.  From the stories of our families that help shape who we are to stories of overcoming adversity, our stories connect us.  They can be sad, inspirational, and funny.

Take a moment to read some of the stories on the Story Corps website.  


Blogging in 2018: Grab Your Audience

I have said it before and I will say it again. Good writing skills are a very important skill in life. I am a firm believer in this.

From casual conversations and business interactions to expressing your feelings when it matters the most, good communication skills are a must.  That is why weekly blogs are a part of my curriculum.

There is the additional benefit of giving yourself a voice on a platform that has the potential to reach a limitless audience.

You have a semester of blogging experience under your belt, now it’s time to step it up a notch, two!

Here are two articles to help you on that path.

10 Tips For Making Your Blog Posts Easier To Read

I like Tip #3 . See how you can implement a meaningful question that will prompt a response from your audience.

4 Blogging Tips

The Power is in the Proofing

Proof reading your work has sadly become an afterthought. I blame it on our penchant for firing off a quick message in a text or email. That style of “writing” is geared for quick communication.  Abbreviations and internet slang are the norm.

You know the language. LOL, IDK, BTW, LMK, OMG, THX.

There is still a need for good, make that great, writing.

I have been writing since I was a child. Even with more than 40 years of practice, I am by no means perfect on those first drafts. When I sit down to write that first draft I focus on getting my thoughts on “paper”.  Round two, I fine tune it. Round three, I proof read and lastly, I read it out loud. That’s #5 on the list below.

I have caught more oversights when I have read my work out loud. I think it’s one of the best proofing tools out there.  Read this great tip sheet from Grammarly to help you get in the habit of proofing your work.

After all, you don’t want your audience to remember you for mistakes. You want them to remember you for your creativity.  

Proof It Tips

New Year.

New Students.

Fresh Ideas.

The great thing about teaching is you get to wipe the slate clean each year and get a fresh start.  That was one of the reasons I enjoyed my career in broadcasting because every day was a fresh start.  A different story, different location, different people to interview every day. I loved the spontaneity of it.

The 2017-18 school year is already off to a productive start. Second year students have already completed or are near completion on independent projects.  AM students recorded and edited the first of a series of shows for our principal, Mr. Stanfield.

Tech Talk with Wade Stanfield

Our PM students have been working with the FCPS Transportation Department to create a new and improved PSA on School Bus Safety. This project has allowed the students real life experience by going off campus to work on a project that will air on local cable TV.

There are procedures to follow to ensure everyone arrives to and from school safely

Calla and Diana work the cameras while Leah oversees the project with the preplanned shot list.







I am also very excited about the effort and content that I have seen put into this year’s blogs. There is a variety of topics that would appeal to many interests. As a person who has always loved creative writing, it makes me so happy to see students exploring their own writing and communicating talents via their blogs.

There are so many ways to communicate with others.  From the written word, to photos, audio, video and graphics, each platform tells a story. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with this year as each person tries all the ways to communicate out and finds the one that sparks his/her passion for connecting with others.

This is going to be a great year! I can feel it!




The Science of Storytelling: It’s Good for the Brain

You know what I say, everyone has a story to tell, what’s yours?  Here is an interesting article about the benefits of telling stories. Worth the read.

Science of Storytelling

#EdublogsClub Prompt 2: My Classroom

Our Space

For the last five years my classroom was one large space with a corner dedicated for our broadcasts and a back room for the studio director. Here is a post I wrote last year when I was working to improve that space which I tell the students is OUR room. Granted, I flip flop on whether that is a good idea because sometimes little pieces of trash, etc left behind leaves me to believe some treat the space as they would their own room, so maybe I should call it MY room and it will remain tidy out of the utmost respect for me, the teacher. Mmmm, doubtful!

Work in Progress

This school year I was blessed to acquire the smaller room next door that is long and narrow. A doorway/passthrough was cut in-between the rooms so now the big room can evolve into a dedicated studio space and the “new” room is my teaching space. It was a blank canvas I wasted no time putting my personal touch on.

I researched color to see what would be the best to inspire creativity as well as instill a sense of calmness and attention.

I have also added an area by my desk of “flexible seating”. I know I do my best work when I am comfortable. My go-to place when I am working on my graduate school class is a cozy corner at the coffee shop in town.  So it only makes sense to make the classroom a comfortable place.

Josh, a 3rd year student, clutches a pillow in comfort as he edits a video for a class assignment


Eventually the coffee table will be painted with “whiteboard” paint so students may brainstorm by writing ON the table!


Aesthetics: The Beauty is in the Detail

I am adding plants, not only are they attractive, there are health benefits. Since plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen that helps deter illness with improved indoor air quality which in turn assists in breathing.


I hate fluorescent lighting so I have added several incandescent lights to add warmth.

I LOVE monograms, so you will find a lot of “R” goodies around the room.

My students helped take ownership of the room makeover and painted a chalk board wall where I often post the bell ringer.

It allows students to gather together and talk about the post instead of sitting alone and not interacting.  When I don’t have a bell ringer posted it has become a neat place where students leave fun doodles which I think is therapeutic for them!





The look of the chalkboard wall also adds a nice touch of “Whimsy” to the room.


… More Whimsy:

“Newsie” our decorative decoupage reindeer head over the doorway. I made him!

Staying organized?@#$%^&*!

Can we say #Goals? I aspire to be the most organized-pseudo type A teacher, but let’s be honest as a middle age person  who has yet to master that art, I am a constant work in progress. I am trying and I am making progress in the forms of baby steps. This year I got a Happy Planner. It is allowing me to add my crafty inclinations to my planning which is proving to be fun.


Slowly Getting Organized


Tips & Tricks to accomplish Classroom Nirvana

DIY, Flea Market Finds, and a little imagination.


#EdublogsClub Prompt 1: My Blog Story

I wrote my first blog while I was still a reporter at a local TV station. It was around 2006. Called Michelle’s Dog Blog, it was prompted by the cancer diagnosis my beloved dog George received at the young age of five and a half years old.  As I learned about the wonderful treatment available to pets who still had so much life left in them in spite of a serious health crisis, I wanted to share what I was learning with the viewers of our TV station.

Writing the blog was not only therapeutic for me, but it was rewarding to get so much feedback from the people who read it. I still remember one woman whose dog had nose cancer. She ended up taking her dog to the veterinary oncologist my George was being treated by, who was one of only two in the entire state back then.  Unfortunately her dog was far along in his illness, but the oncologist was able to make her dog comfortable for the remaining months he had left. This made me feel so good that my story was able to help someone else.

Three years after his diagnosis,  my George passed away. After that I sat down and wrote from my heart about the lessons my boy taught me in life and  in the three years of boldly, bravely, and even enthusiastically battling his lymphoma. That post was nominated for an Emmy for writing. To this day I share a copy of that post with friends after the loss of a pet in the hopes it brings them some comfort.  The power of words is amazing.

Follow-Worthy Favorites

Off the Grid and on the Map

Although this Blog is not updated anymore, it is still one of my favorite that I followed regularly when it was current. It was created by a former co-worker of mine and his wife who sold ALL of their worldly belongings, including their home, bought a utility van and converted it into a house on wheels. That is where their story begins. I loved living vicariously through their exciting life as they traveled the states and beyond.

Fridays With Freddy

A dog named Freddy and Dirty Jobs host, Mike Rowe. What’s not to like?! I love this blog written from the perspective of the dog. Good stuff.

What My Daughter Wore

This is a fantastic blog for the artistically inclined. The title says it all. A mother who is an artist documents her daughter’s fashion choices by drawing them with colored pencils.  While no words are used, each illustration still tells a story.

2017 Goals

With my broadcast career behind me, I am encouraging my Media Arts students to blog. This is the third year it has been a part of my curriculum.  It’s been hit or miss. This year, sadly, it seems to be a miss.  I think it is important for everyone to feel they have a voice and blogging is a great platform to be seen and heard through the written word, spoken in a podcast post, or showcasing expression through art and photographs.

Blogging is a tool for expression that can be taken out of the classroom and into life. I have had students who loved it so much they continued blogging on their own after leaving my class. One young lady documented her first year as a college student in a blog which I thought was a great idea.

I am excited to join the #EdublogsClub for the weekly prompts to not only get back in the habit of blogging for my personal enjoyment, but to also model blogging for my students in a way I hope inspires them. Additionally I am looking forward to connecting  with other educators across the country who are participating in the Blogging Club!




Post Election Podcast

Election 2016 has been one for the history books indeed. In the news business it has been what we call a water cooler Topic, meaning something people stand around the water cooler in the break room and talk and debate about.

It has been very interesting as an adult to see the immense amount of interest among teenagers throughout the entire election. The day after the election was no different.

My PM media arts students created this Podcast to discuss their feelings after Donald Trump was elected as our next POTUS.

Challenge Accepted. Say More with Less.


Saying more with less is either harder or easier depending upon how you approach it.  In some ways, I think it is harder to say something extra powerful in just six words.  For famed author, Ernest Hemingway, it was a sad tale. So few word, such a sad story.

What I love about this concept is how addictive it is. Once you get started, it’s almost like a game to say something so deep or wildly funny in just six words.  I challenge everyone to do your best. Look at this not just as another assignment, but as something to tackle like a great puzzle.

Just like slogans, a six word thought that’s really good has longevity, standing the test of time. New York Yankee’s legend Yogi Berra probably didn’t mean to create a six word story when he said “It ain’t over til it’s over”, but it has come to be said time and again with a deep meaning.

Take the challenge. Say more with less. Who can come up with  THE most memorable Six Word Story?

If you missed our in class introduction or would like to go back and watch it again, here are the links:

Smith 6 Word Memoir Ted Talk

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