How TIP has made me a better teacher

I just finished my second year of teaching the “Media and Message: Communicating in the Digital Age” course at Duke TIP.  I wanted to reflect on a few ways how  TIP has made me a better teacher.  Here they are:

1)Innovation: For me, I had the opportunity to create the curriculum for a brand-new digital media course from scratch.  The digital media course allows me to teach, learn and study areas different from and beyond the largely “traditional” journalism courses I teach the other 10 months out of the year.  TIP often offers courses you wouldn’t find in your mainstream classroom, such as courses on Villains and Zombies.  Each term, Durham solicits proposals for new courses so as an instructor you have the opportunity to suggest and potentially create new classes.

2)Experimentation:  TIP allows me more flexibility to try new approaches, test out new lesson plans and experiment with new tools and technologies.  Because some of my TIP colleagues come from the College of Education, they have lots of wonderful teaching “TIPs” (nyuk, nyuk) to share that I’ve found success with in the TIP classroom.  If something works well in my TIP course, I can incorporate it into my own college courses.  If a new approach is a miserable failure, I fail quickly, learn from it and move on in a short time frame.  TIP can be a great testing ground, however.  This summer I tried out the new Kodak zi8 cameras that we’ll be using in our revamped JOUR3510 Editing course.

3)Mentoring:  At Grady, I teach mostly college upperclassmen who have a pretty good idea at that point of what they would like to do for a career (or at least a general subject area).  At TIP, I teach middle and high school students who either a)have a slight interest in journalism that use the TIP class as a means to see if they want to take some more journalism electives in school, b)have zero interest in journalism and media or c)definitely want to pursue a journalism career.  For the first and third of those, mentoring is important.  I can help guide these aspiring young journalists in their studies and advise them on the next steps in pursuing a journalism career.  I can see a more direct, instant, meaningful impact on a young TIPster’s life and that is gratifying.

4)No Fear of Fun:  Let’s face it, college journalism classes can be intimidating.  I aim to be fair, but tough in my grading of student assessment.   A single fact error costs you 20 points off your grade on an assignment.  At TIP, there are no grades.  And while TIP provides  a rigorous curriculum for advanced, gifted adolescents, it’s still a summer camp for children.  As such, fun in the classroom is the goal — far from the stereotypical image of a stuffy, boring college lecture.  Teaching at TIP is fun and my students and I aren’t afraid to show it.  TIP allows me to try silly approaches, such as using the “fish hook dance” and playing Blues Traveler when describing the importance of a lead.  Or having TIPsters “do the John Wall” after a lesson on viral video.

5) Classroom Management:  TIP has made me a better classroom manager.  For starters, I rarely if ever have to deal with behavioral issues in a Grady classroom.  I teach young adults afterall.  At TIP, well…kids will be kids.  As brilliant and academically advanced as the TIPsters are, they’re still adolescents who are developing emotionally, behaviorally and cognitively.  As a TIP instructor, you must learn how to deftly address short attention spans, combat bouts of ennui, and deal with relationTIPs, homesickness and medical maladies, among other challenges.  There’s also the time factor.  In college, I teach a few hours two days a week over the course of 16 weeks.  At TIP, we’re in the classroom 7 hours a day on weekdays and three hours on Saturday over the course of 3 weeks.  TIP is intense, and planning 7 hours of daily curriculum can be a daunting task at first.

6)Engagement:  My TIP classroom stresses engagement.  Engagement with the students.  Engagement with the material.  Engagement with the community.  I focus heavily on student-centered learning at TIP, where student editors lead the way in assigning stories for coverage of TIP for the tipatuga blogaThEENs also allowed the TIPsters to engage with the Athens community in a way that, honestly, my college students fail to do.  We had lots of prominent Athenians in the classroom, ranging from Athfest Director Jared Bailey to Darius Weems, the star of “Darius Goes West.”   TIPsters were out in the community, covering Canopy Studios’ trapeze camp and even interviewing Mayor Heidi Davison at the DGW Days Carnival.

Overall, TIP is a wonderful program that I’ve been privileged to be a part of these past two years.


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2 Responses to “How TIP has made me a better teacher”

  1. Nicole Says:


    I’ll be honest: I’ve really missed TIP lately. I’ve gotten back home and Mom asks me why I’m so sad- I miss being a little journalist! (I have been wearing my wide array of CNN shirts and all my UGA shirts- including the one from the Red & Black!) You really helped me to learn the skills I need to now go into the world- camera and wifi-connected-Twitter-app-installed iPod touch in hand. 🙂 I’ve started a local teen news blog (modeled off aThEENs) and will use this outlet to keep up all my journalism skills you helped teach me.

    One little instance: Last night I was at an event with Nicholas Sironka- Kenyan artist that travels the country sharing the Maasai culture. One of the local school superintendents was in attendance, and, honestly, part of me was nervous to interview him. Then I thought, “Wait! At TIP I interviewed the mayor of Athens! I can do this!”

    Long story short- What you taught in TIP this summer has helped me so much to start my journalism career, even though I’m still only a high schooler. I’m using everything you taught- from Twitter to blogging to interviewing and Youtube- to pursue my goals.

    Thank you!!!!

  2. graybs Says:


    That’s awesome about starting the Stauntonteens blog site! Keep up the good work. Nice to hear from you– I’m glad you’re putting all those M&M lessons and skill sets to good use.
    Thank you also for your kind words. I appreciate your comments.

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