The Lesson

With graduation quickly approaching, many thoughts previously procrastinated upon have taken a more predominant role in my mind: what have I accomplished during my time at VCU? What have I learned that will help me prevail in the current job market? What did I truly enjoy? And most importantly and integral to my current situation, what comes next? What happens now?

First and foremost, the number one skill I believe I have learned in college is stay true to what I love and do what is necessary to achieve my goals.  The lazy days of procrastination and ‘lollygagging’ are in behind us. Now is the time to DO, not wait. If greatness is to be achieved, motivation is necessary, and leaving the warmth of the ‘comfort zone’ is an important motion I hope to turn into a habit. Taking this class was monumental for me in understanding this feat, how difficult it can be, but also the rewards that can be reaped from taking such risks. Furthermore, taking this class was not the foundational step in discovering this gem of information, it was what I saw in the young adults at UMFS that allowed me to fully understand what it means to break out of yourself, try new things, and learn from your mistakes in order to better oneself in skill and in personality.

Second, I can say that I truly did enjoy leaving my comfort zone in order to traverse the intricate world of Journalism. I have learned the ins and outs of rules surrounding this delicate field, as well as fully understanding and categorizing the pros and cons of being a great journalist. I have come to better understand people in my efforts to properly conduct interviews, whether it be for a story on the James River or one on a controversial government bill, or even a story on living with a serious illness in which my interview subjects have lost loved ones. Watching the students at UMFS begin the semester with hesitation and end with confidence and a general appreciation for my time with them was total culmination of my own growth as a student, individual and now graduate in the field of journalism.

Lastly, and not so unfortunately, I still do not know what will happen next. I say it is not unfortunate with pride because I can say that the future should not be so terrifying if you are doing all you can to make the appropriate and most fulfilling decisions in the present. This is what I have learned from working at UMFS this past semester. It is the present that can scare and deter, but if you remember to chose the path that can help you achieve greatness, the future, while difficult at times, and ridden with obstacles, there won’t be anything in your way that can stop you. In the end, the only thing standing between me and my ultimate aim is myself. It was a grand lesson, college.

Below is a video clip from the Reach Back, Pull Forward Program associated under the non-profit organization, Girls with Gifts, which is dedicated to helping young ladies from low income families achieve greatness in the arts, performing arts, and music.


Comment on Amber’s ‘The End of the Road Post’ on Nov. 15

“With this class, since it’s so new, we kinda knew what we were going to encounter and then we kinda didn’t.”

I know what you mean.  I was told what this class would entail but that didn’t prepare me for what we actually did and what I learned and also how much fun I’ve had.  In a way I believe it was a good thing I ended up being a little surprised because I believe that was a large part of why I became attached to the work we accomplished this semester, even though work really isn’t the right word.

I also feel that we succeeded.  Sometimes, even though we would all like to be prepared for what comes next, it turns out to be a good thing to be surprised and be forced to compensate.  You either realize what you are capable of or you adjust and come out of the experience a stronger person overall.

—I wasn’t quite sure how to post this comment because I could not find the comment area on her tumblr, i just really like her post from Nov. 15 and wanted to comment on it.  I am posting it here, as a comment under her post under blackboard, and as an entry under my name on blackboard as well.

Nov. 19: Interview Progress

Beginning three weeks ago on October 29th, our semester at UMFS reached its climax with the students preparing to interview several residents of Guardian Place.  Overall I was astounded at not only the level of professionalism but most importantly by the willingness of the students to try to engage the subjects in a well-constructed interview process.

Interviewing Humans

The interviewing process was always the aspect of Journalism that I had most of my issues with.  There is an anxiety that accompanies tracking down people and asking them occasionally personal questions.   I remember having to learn to get over it and do what I needed to do to get my story, and I believe I saw this gradual willingness manifest itself in many of the students at UMFS.  I firmly believe that prior to interviewing at Guardian Place this semester we prepared them enough so that eventually they would all be comfortable to at least try and ask a few questions to one or more of the interviewees.

Media Helping Media’s Interviewing Tips

This was, again, a gradual process as I am sure it is for many beginning journalists.  The first week there was some definite about getting up and trying.  This takes many people out of their comfort zone.  Once some of the students who were more nervous saw the students who weren’t going for it many of them warmed up to the idea and each performed beautifully.  I am definitely excited to see the edited footage.

Creative Cow: Shooting and Editing

I think overall I have grown the most in my own interaction with people.  I always had a problem starting the interview with attempting to “warm up” the subject so to speak, and I always grew impatient and would begin asking the difficult questions too early.  I saw an opposing dilemma with the “candy bar question” situation.  That is, when responses are getting heavy and emotional, one almost reverts back awkwardly by asking something such as “what is your favorite candy bar” when the subject just finished recounting a painful portion of his or her past.  I realize that writing down questions is important and mapping out your strategy for getting as much and the right kind of knowledge from your subject that would most impact your story, but as responses surprise you, questions may change.  I will try not to focus so much on the question but on the responses I need from now on.

Oct. 22: Personal Growth

One thing that I have mentioned previously that has certainly changed throughout the course of this semester is my opinion on teaching.  I was nervous about working with kids this semester, and it can still be a nerve-racking ordeal, but overall I have come to realize the benefits of teaching and now truly look forward to and enjoy the time I spend at UMFS.  Here are the top 10 reasons to pursue a teaching career according to

10. You’ll Earn A Solid Paycheck as a Teacher

While teaching is not a get-rich-quick profession, starting salaries are in line with other graduate professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public teachers are actually paid about 11 percent more than the average professional worker.

9. More than Just an Apple a Day

Important benefits, such as health insurance and pension plans, are becoming scarce commodities in many professions, but you can count on both in a teaching career. When’s the last time you heard of someone getting a pension after retirement? Most teachers have their premiums fully paid by their school districts and their health, dental and vision benefits are among the best when compared with other industries. Teaching also offers additional benefits such as sick days and tuition reimbursement, so you’ll find that teaching actually pays a lot more than you think.

8. Love Your Education Career

Joseph Campbell’s recommendation to “follow your bliss” is universally echoed by career counselors. If you are happy at work, you’ll be more motivated, energetic, successful and confident—and the other people in your life will benefit from your outlook. If the idea of teaching invigorates you, that’s a great reason to pursue a teaching career.

7. Nix the Nanny

With a work calendar synched to your kids’ school calendar, an education career allows you to eliminate most childcare expenses. Even though you’re earning a paycheck, you’ll have the flexibility to be home with your kids before and after school.

6. Become an Expert…as a Teacher

There’s an old adage that it takes three years of teaching to master a subject. The best way to learn a topic is to teach it: students’ questions make you dig deeper and learn more until you know the subject inside and out.

5. Teachers Have Reasonable Hours

With students in school just six hours a day, teachers often spend much less time on the job than their corporate counterparts. With the 8-hour workday rapidly becoming the 10 to 12 hour day in other occupations, you’ll find a teaching career leaves you with more time for family, friends and other interests. Sure, you’ll have some long days—plan on time for parent-teacher conferences, grading homework and attending (or leading) after-school activities—but overall, a teaching career will leave you with a life outside of your job. A teaching career truly lets you achieve a work/life balance.

4. Share your Passions in the Classroom

Did you have a teacher that got you so excited about a subject you started putting in extra time and work? That’s what happens when you share your excitement and enthusiasm. Sharing your love of the subject matter with students is one of the best benefits of being a teacher.

3. Can’t Beat the Job Security as a Teacher

While requirements may differ from state to state, once you’ve established yourself as a good teacher, you’ll find there are always jobs available. And, unlike many industries, layoffs and downsizing are rare occurrences in education.

2. Teachers Have Serious Vacation Time

If the idea of having more than two weeks of vacation a year appeals to you, you should definitely consider becoming a teacher. With a couple weeks off for winter holidays, another couple weeks for winter and spring breaks, and almost three months off in the summer, you have the opportunity to invest in other interests:

  • Pursue your obsessions – You’ll have chunks of time to trek around South America, visit exotic Southeast Asia, join an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, spend a month eating your way through Europe, or take a series of music or yoga classes.
  • Summer moonlighting – With summers off, it’s easy to develop a fun, seasonal career. For example, you’ll often find teachers working as docents in our national parks each summer, a classic case of having your vacation and getting paid for it too!
  • Doctor in the house – Teachers often spend their vacation time furthering their own education and investing in professional development. If adding PhD to your name is part of your life plan, but not your budget, teaching can help you find the time and the money to make it happen.

And, the number one perk of a teaching career?

1. Knowing all the answers!


While many of these reasons deal with job stability and salary, I still feel very strongly about numbers 8, 6, and 4, that is, loving your job, learning new things by teaching them, and being able to share your passions.  Here is the link to a wonderful article online titled: Why Teaching May Truly be the World’s Most Important Career.  The liftaway quote from the article is “a teacher is estimated to have 2 to 3 times the impact of any other school factor”, which is really incredible.  These things are involved in my personal growth in this class, but that is not to say I live up to these standards at UMFS at all, only that I have a new respect for teaching and I have come to truly enjoy it.

Here 9 quotes about teaching, my favorite one is by Frederick Douglas: “it is easier to build strong children than to repair strong men”, only because I feel it embodies the importance of teaching and the destruction that follows when good teachers are absent.

One more thing that has changed: I have started treating this class, as well as the work I do in my other classes, as experience and not as a grade for school.  This change is very important to me.  A teacher told me a few semesters ago that once you start working out of enjoyment and stop working for a grade, you will not only learn more but the grades will come.  I have been working very hard this semester and only recently did I realize that I am working for myself to gain experience and have barely stopped to consider my grades at all, although everything still seems to be in order.

Image taken from

Oct. 8: Progress

The week of October 8th at UMFS showed our kids making serious progression not only in camera, interviewing, and editing skills, of which it was apparent they are learning much outside of our class and are enjoying themselves, but also with speaking and opening up to us.  According to Do2Learn, a worldwide resource that began in 1996 for individuals with special needs, creativity and innovation can be fostered through recurring contact with the individuals.  That doesn’t mean physical contact, but just by meeting with them each week we are forming connections with these kids which help them comfortably branch out and express and interpret new ideas.

Something interesting I found on friendship circle blog was that reading faces and interpreting emotions is one of the most predominant things setting special needs children apart from others:

“This skill is important at home, in school and on the playground. Many misunderstandings arise from kids misinterpreting the emotions of others. Sometimes kids can be confused by what a particular look means. They may easily mistake a look of disappointment and think someone is angry, or they may mistake a nervous expression for a funny one.”

My understanding is that special needs children recognize facial expressions based on constant interaction with specific people, not by constant interaction and reacting to particular facial expressions.  In other words, they learn facial expressions from individual people, and relearn the facial expressions each time they are getting to know a new person, they do not easily grasp the concept of a particular facial expressions and relate to every person.  This makes it very important that we continue to aid in their learning on a weekly basis.

Here is an article to help us better understand facial expressions, or lack there of.  In it, the American Psychological Association analyzes the importance of recognizing some key factors in your face when you are demonstrating a particular emotion.  They are the eyes, eyebrows, and mouth, as well as understanding the universal emotions: surprise, fear, disgust, contempt, anger, sadness and happiness, and understanding micro expressions, or facial expressions that pass in an instant. The study of expression is actually a huge branch in psychology and contains some really interesting things.


love, life, inspirational, teachers, teacher

Image taken from

Sept. 17: Teacher, Friend, Mentor

For the most part it seemed everyone had a lot of fun last class at UMFS.  For this week, since the topics could be chosen, I focused on a previous email from Dr. B in which he discussed some things to work on while participating alongside the students at UMFS.  This included knowing the difference between being a teacher and their friends, staying an arms-length away from them, making their priority to learn about journalism and not ‘us’, etc.  This can be challenging, particularly since everyone is eager to ‘mentor’ these kids, we can’t lose sight of the ultimate goal in this class: getting these kids ready for a possible higher education that they haven’t previously been exposed to.  Below are some inspirational quotes on how to be a good teacher, a good mentor, and a good friend, followed by a well-rounded combination to use within this class.


“The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others.” — Tyron Edwards, taken from

This was especially relevant as Edwards, an American theologian from the 19th century, describes the act of instilling his students with the desire to learn and think for itself instead of Edwards teaching by filling his students’ brains with information he has learned himself, which is still important but his students will remain stagnant if they don’t want to continue learning on their own.


“Some come and leave, fulfilling a single purpose; others, for a time or a season to teach us by sharing their experiences; and last, a select few who participate forever with relationships that endure through eternity.”– Jaren L. Davis, taken from Values.

Davis, author of ‘The Bracelet’, also has a blog here:


“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin,

Benjamin Franklin has always been an equally wise yet instigating force of change in American History.  Here he delineates the perfect picture of what it means to be a mentor, as well as what this class embodies.

These three quotes are wonderful sources of information that can help guide the class in a positive direction in which we give these kids what they need and follow directions while still having fun during this experience.  Which one do you think better explains the dynamic? (Graphic taken from

Mentor, Coach, and Friend

A. Fully Intertwined Roles

B. Coach as subset of mentor

C. Coach between Mentor and Friend

D: Friend between Mentor and Coach

Sept 10: Feelings from meeting the UMFS crew

I first heard about MASC 491, Video Mentoring, from Gary Gillam last semester.  He said the class involved teaching what I know as a broadcast journalist, interviewing, camera operation and production, audio and video editing, to special needs teens at UMFS.  Up until this point, everything I was learning had been strictly for my benefit alone.  There were always more interviews, more filming, more editing, re-editing, more shooting, but always just another addition to a portfolio, another step towards graduation, something else for me.  I have always heard teaching is the best way to learn, and it felt good knowing I would be giving back to a community who had less of an opportunity than I.   In addition, the work incorporated into both MASC  415 and MASC 460 had been daunting at times, but the new experiences were always exhilarating, especially working in such a fast paced environment.   Even after all this though, thinking of teaching just once a week for a semester to high school-aged kids weighed heavily in the pit of my stomach.  Would I be patient enough, kind enough… know enough?

But Gary is very persuasive, which is a really good thing because meeting the staff and teens at UMFS on Tuesday not only put my mind at ease about the months ahead but it became clear that this class is going to be much more about teaching.  Getting to know and understand such a unique group of students will no doubt be an exceptionally positive experience- for everyone involved.  For example, it was comforting how much learning about certain disorders from Ceeley before meeting the crew benefited me as I interacted with them, and the staff on campus was welcoming and ecstatic for us to be there.  However, what really drew me in was watching the way the others seemed to react so positively just by being given the opportunity to experience something they have clearly never done before (also impressive was how many of them are already passionate about filming and editing, which seems to uphold the original plan of teaching editing last so that they are almost forced to learn something new before the move on to something many of these students are comfortable with and excited about).  My goal is to know each student’s name by the end of next week’s period.

My motivation for writing this particular blog post, truth be told, comes partially from the fact that I completely missed the deadline this week, but also because as excited as everyone is to jump into this class, I think documenting what we learn this semester is going to be equally as important to us in the future as our work at UMFS is to them in the present.

Lastly, I am interning for emPower Magazine this semester and my story due next is a profile of another organization that aims to foster and mentor children with needs, needs that are different from what we will be learning about in this class but no less special/important.

The Ruby Project is a non-profit organization that reaches out to teenage girls who have suffered some kind of abuse and are trying to overcome personal challenges.  Below is a video of some of there activities taken from their youtube channel.