Giving students a voice

“Monthly Roar,” newspaper allows middle schoolers to express themselves

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This year's journalism class had 50 applicants for 18 spots. On any given day, student reporters can be seen in various stages of the writing and editing process, which includes collaborating on stories, interviewing, editing and designing pages.

Nearly every day at 2 p.m., the Liberty Middle School library transforms into a place where it’s OK to let your voice be heard.

It’s where The Monthly Roar newspaper lives. The slogan is, “Where your voice is heard, and we ain’t lion,” a play on words using the school mascot.

Teacher-librarian Emily Crawford’s journalism class began in 2015 with only seven students. This year, she had 50 applications for 18 spots.

“I took them all (last year) and they turned out to be great,” she says. “This year, I still get asked by students if they can join journalism even though it is late in the year, and then I tell them to apply again next year.”

Crawford hopes the class will allow students to discover more about themselves and their talents.

“I hope my reporters will see themselves in new ways: As writers, researchers, investigators, collaborators and team players,” she says. “Of course, it would also be great if they chose a career in some aspect of journalism.”

The idea for a journalism class was born when Crawford was interviewed for the positon of teacher-librarian in 2015. Having a communications background and a love of writing, she jumped at the opportunity.

On any given day, students are in various stages of the writing and editing process: Checking in on news article statuses, researching, conducting interviews, editing, doing peer reviews, writing, illustrating and designing pages.

Five of Crawford’s original reporters are still with the class. They are eighth-graders Cade Chatterton, Saoirse Boyter, Dillon Grady, Daisy Wagner and Jacob Warta.

Warta writes short stories and movie reviews, along with designing the newspaper’s logo. He decided to apply for the class because he wanted to express himself through writing, something he felt his other courses didn’t offer.

An unexpected benefit has been the opportunity to make friends in different peer groups, which can be difficult in middle school.

“I feel this class has really brought us all together, even though we are very different, and given us a chance to bring up topics most students don’t hear about,” Warta says.

Grady writes gaming and book review articles. A friend recommended he take the class, knowing he had always enjoyed writing.

“This has been a great way to express myself and the overall experience has really improved my leadership skills and learning how to work as a team to accomplish something,” he says.

Boyter focuses on do-it-yourself (DIY) articles, short stories and puzzles.

“I love writing and literature, and this a great way to share my work with the school,” she says. “It just goes to show you that a bunch of middle schoolers can make something great if they work together.”

Wagner writes game reviews for The Monthly Roar.

“I really think the overall experience has strengthened my writing and helped my collaboration skills,” she says.

Chatterton writes the “Tech Today” column for the paper. Like the other veteran reporters in his class, Chatterton wanted an opportunity to share his thoughts and ideas with others.

“This class has taught me that we have an opportunity to get out important information that people didn’t know or realize before,” he says. “This has been a great way to learn about journalism.”

Crawford notes that the class is very important in middle school because it gives students a voice, something that many feel is lacking at their age.

“They often feel like no one listens to them and they often translate that to mean that no one cares,” she says. “We have to show them that’s not true. The Monthly Roar and our journalism program is just a small way of doing that, but it has a long reach.”