As CMSD students learn journalism, they school this journalist
As Ideastream Public Media’s education reporter, it's important that I keep in touch with teachers, administrators, parents and policy makers so I can cover my beat thoroughly.
There's one group that is more important than any of the others: the students, the ones actually being educated.
To stay in the loop, to know what is important to them and the experiences they are having, I work with students as a volunteer on the Unsilenced Voices of CMSD, a student blog.
The student bloggers participated in CMSD’s annual Demonstration of Learning at the Cleveland Public Library Wednesday, and I was there. It got me reflecting back on a busy last year of work. They joined other Civics 2.0 students, that's the district's civics-engagement program, to talk about what they’ve learned so far this school year.
Two of our bloggers, juniors Kayden Ferris and Aaliyah Abdul-Basit, just started working on the blog this year, and they gave a short presentation on what they learned. Kayden is the resident poet; you should definitely check out her recent poem, “Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed,” inspired by an interaction with her mother.
Meanwhile, Aaliyah has a real knack for reporting, which is why my heart was broken when I heard she wanted to go into international marketing as a career instead of journalism, though I know she'll be great at that, too.
During the presentation, they talked about the collective challenges the team has had this year. Fellow writers and journalists will find their thoughts about common challenges are spot on:
- Finding the right topic and being able to write thoughtfully about it.
- Figuring out how to accept constructive criticism.
- Lack of response from potential interviewees, which makes it challenging to schedule interviews. One student called it out as sources’ “complete lack of interest in interviewing,” which I thought was funny. They said it, not me!
Junior Chardon Black is another superstar. He’s president of his class at the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, has a 4.0 grade point average and does about a million other extracurriculars, including mock trial. All of this while commuting an hour to and from school each day on public transit!
He’s written eloquently about the impact of ChatGPT artificial intelligence on classrooms and the ethics of using it. He also is a great public speaker, arguing that students should mobilize against gun violence during a day of action at CMSD in December.
“And we’ve seen people fighting against this gun violence every single day,” Black said. “Advocates of gun restraint push for legislative acts to take away guns as a whole. We’ve seen an entire movement spring up to try to end those numbers from being so high by the end of every year. But, honestly, it hasn’t been as successful as it could be. In fact, we’ve seen a 30% increase in gun-related deaths since 2019. Guns are consistently being brought more and more into our communities and schools."
Every individual on the team is pulling their own weight. Elijah McWilliams penned a great column on what teachers could be doing to make students’ time in class more relevant and useful. It reminded me of how 16-year-old Conor felt on some days.
“They usually just give us research projects all the time,” McWilliams wrote. “There were multiple projects I did last year where I would have to research something that I didn't care about and make Google slides or essays about it. We could do more projects where we make something physically, or have an interactive activity. ... Some of the research projects I did that I did like included learning about my favorite black celebrity and the impact they had on history.”
Gayle Gadison, the school district’s longtime social studies curriculum director, and my fellow coordinator on the blog project, said she’s proud of the students. She told all of the Civics 2.0 students that they did a great job this year.
"You are awe inspiring," she told the crowd at the Demonstration of Learning Wednesday. "This year you registered new voters and tackled the difficult issue of gun violence. Your work has gained the respect of city officials, and they are interested in your thoughts about issues that plague our communities."
You can follow along with the students’ work by going to CMSD’s website for the blog, or by following their work on Twitter.
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