by Christina Danek
photo by Manuel Perez
I sat down to make a list, and then discuss in mild detail, the top ten things that I would miss about high school. But as I was writing, I began to see that there was one thing that I would miss far more than anything else. This one thing has had a far bigger impact on me than any other single aspect of my secondary education. There is one class and one community that has fundamentally impacted the way I think, process, and write.
Newspaper class. We interviewed, we wrote, we revised, we published. We worked hard, we played pranks on our classmates. We worked hard at playing pranks on our classmates. We debated on Debate Fridays, and we kept conversations at a low roar on not-really-very-Silent Thursdays. The class of students was unbelievably diverse, but we all had something in common: we knew the number 1 rule: NEVER get Spamp mad. That green, scary ogre-ish figure sitting on his desk that vaguely resembled our beloved instructor was not just a joke. I learned some other important lessons from being on the newspaper staff, too.
I used to think that journalism was all about writing and publishing…this year I learned that it’s mostly about editing and revising. I used to think that I knew what “good writing” was…this past year I was blown away on multiple occasions by articles, written by my peers, that could have been published in the Denver Post. I used to think journalists were either brilliant or crazy. I now know that, in fact, they are a curious combination of both.
On the first day of school, back in August, Mr. Spampinato gave our Newspaper class a speech about how this would be the most important class we took during high school. I seriously doubted this, and began listing in my mind all of the classes that would undoubtedly end up being more useful than Newspaper. (Let’s see…. Geometry for one. The next time I get that desperate need to prove that yes, a triangle has three sides, this knowledge will be very handy. Hmm. Physics, for another. If a ball is ever falling over a cliff towards me, standing below, I can easily calculate it’s initial potential energy, kinetic energy, and the force it will have if it hits me! Clearly, my Physics class will come in handy then!)
But after several weeks I began to see the light. Not that I needed to have super-fast mental math abilities with Physics calculations (just in case), but that the article-writing process was training the way I thought, and gathered information. The inverted pyramid method of first finding out the Who, What, When and Where, and then addressing the Why and How, was teaching me to systematically attack every problem that presented itself.
For every news-related article, a journalist must include outside quotes and opinions. This requirement has taught me to look at an issue from all sides, before forming judgments. Finally, from being in Newspaper I learned that life really is about being willing to write your name in the by-line. In Newspaper we all had to take responsibility for what we wrote, and allow it to define us, to some extent. From a broader perspective, in life, everyone is accountable for his or her actions, and must accept the consequences, whether good or bad. (This does not exclude a couple of pranksters and their April Fools’ Day shenanigans, either, apparently.)
To be sure, there are a lot of things that I’ll miss about high school, after I’ve moved on. The friends, the TJ traditions, the hall sweeps, and Joe Spartan, are just a few. But being a part of the Thomas Jefferson Journal staff this year has taught me so much, and caused me to grow so much, that the Journal and its 2008 staff are what I’m going to miss the most.