When I first started teaching journalism, I was surprised to find that my county had no curriculum for that subject. I was told to teach whatever I wanted. That might sound wonderful to those of you who are not teachers, but for a new teacher to be asked to create a year-long curriculum for a subject they don’t know much about? Well, like those stress dreams of showing up for the college exam without attending any of the classes, this scenario is a common stress dream for teachers.
Few high school journalism teachers have any kind of background in the subject. Most are English teachers who are hired to fill a vacancy and asked to run the newspaper program. I was lucky in that I had an expensive journalism degree from a prestigious school, which I proceeded to replicate the best I could. I created a year-long Introduction to Journalism course based on my own undergraduate program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
I taught at that first school for eight years, and then left to stay home with my babies. My plan had only ever been to teach for five to 10 years, and then do something else, I wasn’t sure what. I never thought I would be back in the classroom. I kept nothing. I gave my entire journalism program to my friend and colleague Wendy Borelli, who was replacing me.
Four years later, for a variety of reasons, I found myself teaching at another school. I was hired to teach three sections of yearbook and was thrilled. My classroom adjoined the room of the newspaper and journalism teacher, Jackie Rozansky, who seven years later, has come to be one of my dearest friends. In my second year at this new school, Jackie was telling me about one of her lessons. It sounded awesome, and so familiar. I peeked over at her binder, and saw my own handwriting there.
When Jackie was a new teacher, hired to teach English, but also journalism, she attended a teacher training for Advanced Placement Literature and Composition. A teacher she met there also happened to teach journalism, and shared her curriculum with Jackie. That teacher was Wendy Borrelli.
The following year, Jackie was promoted to head of the department and I took over the newspaper and journalism courses. I had kept nothing so I went Jackie for help. She handed me her binder, which was the one Wendy had given her, which was the one I had given Wendy, which was the one I had created.
My county has 26 high schools. Each one has 15 to 20 English teachers. What are odds of Wendy meeting Jackie and then me ending up at Jackie’s school? I’m not super great at math, but I have to think slim. My breath catches when I think of the small miracle of this. For it is a miracle.