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Lesson Plans


[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Lily Kerns (cwkerns)
Mon, 14 Dec 1998 11:46:30 -0600

I'm passing this on along with part of a note from its author:
>>I'd be delighted for you to pass this on to anyone you think might
find it helpful! It's interesting you should want to pass this along to an
arts list, since with my journalism students, I often draw the parallel
between what they're doing and learning an artistic skill -- that it's a
gradual, agonizing process of mastery rather than one day not knowing
something and then suddenly knowing it the next!
My thanks for the interest and for askin'!

Dave T.

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date sent: Tue, 8 Dec 1998 15:15:23 -0500
Send reply to: Discussion List for Journalism Education
From: David Tait <dtait>
Subject: Courage

I have just returned from a seminar here at Carleton at which
four profs who've recently won prestigious teaching awards
discussed their approaches to and understanding of teaching and
learning. While there, I had a dazzling flash of the tremendously
obvious that I'll share, even though I suspect the response it
deserves is a huge "Well, Duh...!"

One participant happened to use the words courage and
encourage within close proximity, and that made me realize for
perhaps the first time that to encourage means literally to provide
courage or fill someone with courage. Well, of course...right?

But here, at the end of a very busy term of doing soooooo
much "encouraging" of young journalism students on a daily basis,
it struck me that what I'd been doing wasn't just motivating or
helping or reassuring or prodding them along. In many cases, what
was faltering in them was their courage -- and what they'd needed
from me was something that would give them nothing less than
actual courage.

It seems a rather dramatic word and perhaps we're more
comfortable thinking in terms of "confidence," but the link to
"encourage" reminded me that it really does take substantial
courage for a 19- or 20-year-old to approach some homeless man
on the street or to pester a city councillor for an interview or to
stand up to someone who's trying to bully them out
of doing a story or to approach really any stranger for the first
time...or to function effectively in the face of an on-rushing deadline,
with fear of failure and embarrassment looming all around.

These tasks quickly become routine once we're professionals
encountering them on a daily basis, and so perhaps we lose track
of just how terrifying they were when first encountered in journalism
school (or in those first weeks on the job) -- and lose track, too, of
just how much courage it took for us to deal with them those first

I'm putting this on a yellow post-it on the inside of my forehead
for future reference, so that each time I find myself "encouraging" a
journalism student, I'll remember that what they need me to give
them isn't something bland called "encouragement" -- it's the
actual courage to do what I and journalism are demanding of them.

And it's also something I'll do my best to remember when
evaluating their work and pointing out all they didn't do and all the
questions they didn't ask. I'm now reminded these shortcomings
often aren't due to careless oversights or laziness, but rather to
faltering courage -- and that's a weakness that needs to be handled
in a far, far different way.

Just some end-of-term musing...also known, in the words of
one wise colleague, as "marking avoidance"!

Dave T.

David Tait Assistant Professor School of Journalism and
Carleton University Ottawa, Canada K1S 5B6

phone: (613) 520-2600 ext. 7428
e-mail: dtait