by Julie Dodd
JEA Mentoring Committee co-chair

Downloadable poster from the National Education Association

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day.

This is a good time to say how much those of us working with the Journalism Education Association’s mentoring program appreciate the work being done by the journalism teachers participating in the program and their mentors.

We know that new teachers have a huge range of challenges — developing lesson plans to meet state mandates and student needs and interests and addressing obstacles to student learning, from cyberbullying to classroom size.

The journalism teachers in our mentoring program face several other challenges.

Typically journalism/media is not included in required courses or state-mandated testing. So teachers also are responsible for recruiting students for their classes and often selling the value of journalism to the students’ parents, too.

Media classes are performance classes. Whereas in an English class, a student’s poorly written essay is that student’s grade issue. On a media staff, a bad photo or inadequately researched story can lead to negative feedback from the school community not only for the student who took the photo or wrote the story but for the staff and the adviser. That can be a lot of pressure on the adviser.

And producing a newspaper, yearbook, online publication or broadcast program typically requires special funding. Advertisements must be sold. Yearbooks must be sold. Budgets must be set and adhered to. Not too many other subjects require the teachers to fundraise to keep the program going.

So we know those new journalism teachers are dealing with not only the usual challenges for new teachers but additional concerns.

Their JEA mentors help them work through how to deal with those special issues — creating a publication budget, developing an editorial board, figuring out First Amendment applications for student media.

The mentors are enthusiastic about their work with their mentees, saying that they can see a difference in the student media, in individual student performance, and in the new teacher’s competence and confidence

For all you new journalism teachers, thanks for all you are doing to help your students improve their writing and thinking skills, see how computer applications apply to work setting, and learn about civic engagement.

For all your JEA mentors, thanks for the hours you are spending with your mentees — in the classroom and through phone calls and e-mail.

And we thank the school administrators who have welcomed the JEA mentors into their schools to help new journalism teachers be effective in their work.