Now that it’s the second semester of Front Street Writers, we’re starting journalism, an exciting and mildly terrifying concept for those of us used to creating stories in our minds rather than finding them in the real world. We will still write fiction, but mostly focus on researching and writing news articles this semester. Our first assignment was to write a short piece for the CTC Times (the Career-Tech Center’s newsletter, which is meant to show prospective students and parents what they could be doing here). We were put in pairs and each given classes to cover (our beats).
This was our first assignment involving interviewing people for articles this year. I was scared about doing this last year. But the longer I talked to my interviewee—a personable student with a lot to say about his program—the more I relaxed. And this year, I wasn’t nervous at all!
My partner and I were assigned to cover the Construction Trades Program in a classroom very different from our own, with whirring drills, grinding bandsaws. Our class can also get loud. Occasionally someone drops a book and we talk a lot, but that doesn’t remotely compare to the ear-killing decibels of this room. Not only does our classroom not emanate a constant roar, but while this class keeps safety goggles in the corner, we devote a corner to a collection of tea, hot cocoa, and mugs.
The door was locked when we first arrived at the Construction classroom. I knocked as loudly as I could before being told by Construction students coming back to class that I would have to be much louder. After one student pounded on the door so hard I thought his wrist might break—or break a hole through the door—they were let in and we meekly followed.
I already knew that the Construction Program had been involved in a project making a replica of a teen’s bedroom in a trailer. This trailer will be used by law enforcement to teach mostly parents telltale signs that their teens could be taking drugs. I asked the instructor about it, and one of the students, Michael Elliott, who was nearby and heard us, volunteered to be interviewed.
I had a list of questions, but I have found that’s only a starting point used to make me feel secure and less nervous about interviews. Instead of focusing too much on my prepared questions, I asked Michael how he felt about the project and what he learned. Despite flinching every two minutes from the roar of a table saw, this was the most conversational interview I’ve ever had. I became conscious that I was talking to another student. He was aware that I was a student as well, trying to become better at interviewing people. Our mutual empathy for each other took the pressure off, and I was able to actually think about what I wanted to know and ask about.
I felt insanely confident after this interview—I had interviewed someone I didn’t know without being nervous! That was unheard of for me.
After interviewing people, our class wrote short articles about the different programs. We edited them for each other and talked to Ms. Scollon about restructuring them. I needed to go back and interview the construction student again for this step, and miraculously got past the locked door in one try this time—my aggressive door-pounding skills have clearly improved.
The CTC Times editor then gave us her own editing feedback, and we revised some more. She’ll select her favorite articles for the newsletter. Being competitive with my past self, who was published there last year, I hope to make this article shine.
This is the very beginning of our journalism unit. Stay tuned!