I come from a family of several educators, and though I wasn’t ever drawn to the profession, I can relate to its creative aspects. Like publishing a magazine, educating our kids takes plenty of ingenuity to make learning both interesting and engaging — year after year.
Over the years, my mom, aunts, sister, and brother-in-law have all shared examples of various projects they’ve done to encourage innovation, creativity, and independent thinking in their classrooms. One of my favorite assignments of late is one that speaks directly to my journalist heart.
At the close of this past school year, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Tricia, launched “Deadline!,” a magazine-publishing project with her seventh-grade English students. The goal, she told me, was to ignite the kids’ passion for writing, to get their creative juices flowing, and “above all, for them to be proud of themselves and the work they put into their projects!”
The 20-day project kicked off with a review of existing magazines, including Experience Life. The class discussed who might read these publications, as well as their sex, age, income level, and education. They also talked about the ads and how they’re geared toward these reader demographics. The students then got to choose topics for their very own magazines, and “hire” their classmates as writers and artists.
It was at this point that I got to visit the class virtually. I shared my background as a writer and editor. I talked about how our team collaborates to develop the articles for each issue and how we partner with illustrators and photographers on the visual elements.
I explained the process for creating the magazine from start to finish, and I stressed the growing importance of digital — how, with technology at our fingertips, we have to meet our audience where they are.
Then I answered questions — so many questions! — about everything from what I studied in college to how the team comes up with story ideas.
I was inspired by the kids’ curiosity and their enthusiasm for their topics, which included healthy living, the history of basketball, crafting, time in nature, the world of autism, the truth about makeup, and more.
Throughout the project, Tricia kept me posted on the students’ progress and then sent pictures of the final products (below).
While creativity was at the core of this assignment, it had other unexpected benefits. Tricia noted: “Students who typically might not speak were cutting deals and forming bonds that led to many smiles, uplifting conversations, and an overall positive classroom community. I was so proud of how they interacted with one another.”
This reminded me that creativity is about more than the final outcome: It’s also about what we learn along the way. You’ll see examples of this throughout this issue, including how painting helped one woman process grief (see “Wendy Welz’s Success Story“) and the ways visualization helped Tony Gonzalez grow in his NFL career and beyond (see “Game Changer”).
Getting to participate in this class’s process also reminded me of why I love doing this work. When a student asked if I ever get bored with my job, I responded: Nope, because while the process is the same, I’m always learning new things. Explore this issue to discover some of them for yourself.