I’ve mentioned that I held my first news meeting about four years ago and that it made my classroom a more engaged place, one where my students were more willing to reach out (or were less likely to hold back). I think that talking about the world genuinely made them feel more connected, more willing to find and use their voices.
Because here’s one thing news meetings do. They give students something to talk about. They give them something to say. At an age when students are moving outward, away from the safety of their own families and into the wider world, everything we as teachers can do to help them stay connected is important. News meetings do that.
I’m going to turn to my first group of news meeting students to better explain to you what I mean. I spoke with them when they were in eighth grade, two years after leaving my classroom. I asked them to tell me what our news meetings meant to them.
- “It made me feel connected with the world, knowing what was going on rather than feeling isolated and unaware.” -Ryan, age 14.
- “My mom and I, she drives me to school and we don’t talk in the car. But we started being able to talk about the things we talked about in the news meetings and we were really sharing our opinions rather than just talking about: ‘Did you do your homework?’ or ‘Did you clean your room?’” -Solomyn, age 13.
- “What really surprised me is that other people have opinions, different opinions than me, and that surprised me.” -Charlotte, age 13.
- “I started to talk to my mom way more about stuff that was happening. Before there was not much talking. Being able to talk to her about things, and we had our own opinions and shared them, that meant something to me.” -Cheyanne, age 13.
- “When I got home from school, I didn’t really talk to my mom about school stuff because she didn’t really understand it. And she didn’t talk to me about work stuff because I didn’t really understand it. But with the news meetings, I’d get home and we’d be able to have conversations about stuff that was going on in the world. We’d have conversations and it was nice, to just be able to talk.” -Mateo, age 13.
- “I found it weird that I had different opinions from my mother. … It was a realization that I’ve got my own opinions and yet I can see her side. There’s more to talk about when you realize you see things differently.” -Fiona, age 13.
Fiona also added another of my favorite comments, her ultimate reason why teachers should hold news meeting: “Because we should know.”
For the record, I also asked students’ parents what they thought, and that’s always a scary thing for me to do. What if they ask me to stop holding these meetings? Thankfully, even the more skeptical parents ultimately had the opposite reaction. A few of their thoughts:
- “I have actually been asking Daniel what is happening in the world and he is always happy to fill me in on something. I know some of the discussions have been on subjects that are not always happy — but that is reality. While I like to shelter my kids a little on certain subjects, I don’t think it is good to shelter them from life. I really hope you don’t change or get rid of the daily news meetings. I think it has been such great practice for them to debate and discuss subjects and respect the opinions of others.”
- “We hadn’t really been including Ruby in world news discussions much up until you started — which prompted me to realize she is ready for that. I feel it’s important for her to understand that this is her world and she will need to be informed about what is going on in it to form opinions about that and eventually make decisions regarding the direction of her efforts in general. It feels like the dawn of awareness outside of her immediate community of family, friends, and school. Ruby says she likes hearing true stories and she just likes knowing.”