Let’s face it — the word deadline has always caused a pulse of panic within the journalism room. In the classroom, and in real life, deadlines are just a matter of fact — and there’s no escaping it. For students, deadline is synonymous with anxiety. So, as educators, we are called to refresh the culture of deadlines in a few easy ways:
1. Lead into deadlines with milestones
Sometimes the project appears bigger than it is. Take the five-paragraph essay into context: to younger students, it’s “impossible” but, when teachers break it apart into five separate pieces, it becomes manageable.
Can the journalism classroom work the same way? Absolutely.
Find your process for your group and identify key milestones to success. This might be assigning dates to have quotes, photographs and headlines well before designing the spread. Find the process that works for you and run with it. By breaking apart the process, deadlines might seem less frustrating.
2. Identify the anxiety
What’s making the deadline difficult: lack of direction, not enough time to focus or, perhaps hiccups in the writing process? Help understand where the problem might be for students, and help them understand that they can reach out to you when they are struggling. After all, that’s why you are there, isn’t it? Then our role is to identify (workable) solutions to help them be successful.
3. Celebrate the achievement
For these students, they are creating a permanent piece of the school’s history. Their stories, designs, photography and ideas are printed for the world to see and cannot be undone. Scary. Celebrate it. These students have worked incredibly hard to achieve something not many their age can write in their résumés. It doesn’t have to be a big pizza party (though it worked for me — my students were seriously driven by food), but can be a small popcorn and movie time, or something fun that re-energizes them.
Pro-tip: Have editors plan the party. Not only will they enjoy planning the party, but you will enjoy not planning it.
4. Reflect and append
Once the deadline has passed, have students reflect upon it. If you have long spans in between deadlines, find out what worked and what didn’t. This is a perfect opportunity to see areas of strength and weakness within the team and append it for the following deadlines.