Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Live and Learn

Our disaster interview simulation was fantastic. In many ways. It was set up as a competition, which is one way of looking at news gathering. It was a fantasy, which seems to have pulled some people in (and made it a lot of fun). It allowed the ham to come out in some people, and the sleuth in others. It allowed us to see how we do, compared to what we want our students to do.

That is the important lesson I am taking away from it. It isn't enough to ask the students to "go out there and get the info." We need to teach them how to discern the truth from fiction or incoherent ramblings from frightened evasions. We need to teach them how to read their interviewee, to know how to approach that person in the most positive manner, to gain their trust to elicit their information. They need to be taught to gather the facts as clearly and cleanly as possible, without forming opinions prematurely.

And then we need to teach them to stand back and objectively organize their information. After that, do they need to seek more clarity of information? Did we teach them to ask if they can contact that person for further information? Have we taught them to get it all down in writing or on tape?

As I went through the exercise, I admit that I was concentrating more on the above questions and ideas than on solving the crime. But I also was aware how much I need feedback from people to be able to ask questions. The FBI man and the fire chief left me with a blank brain. I learned that this is an area I need practice on, especially if I am going to be teaching my students to interview. And that is what I kept coming back to--how am I going to teach my students to outperform me? What strategies can I employ with my class? There are very few thespians in the District, but I'll be working on that idea over the summer. This was one fantastic exercise I want to share with my kids.

Nunn Winship
Warden H S
Warden WA

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you found the experience valuable. The fire chief and FBI spokesperson roles are perhaps the closest to real life. It's difficult to get concrete information while officials are still trying to figure out what happened, especially when there could be a crime involved and when a suspect could be on the loose. Working your way up the food chain by interviewing witnesses (or trombone players claiming to be witnesses) is a good way to inform the questions a reporter asks of official sources. This also applies to stories that don't involve disaster. Talking with people affected by an issue or people who make things work at the most basic level can yield the human dimension and impact of a story while informing the questions you ask of high-level sources.

    Steve Elliott
    Arizona State University