Spending time with students

If you ever get an opportunity to speak to groups of middle and high school students, do it. Last week I led a few sessions for the 7th Annual Developing Star Leaders program hosted by West Virginia University-Parkersburg. The theme for the day was “STARS iThink, not groupThink,” and I got to talk to the students — ranging in age from 10 to 18 — about trustworthy news sources, research, fact-checking, self-assessment (examining the factors that influence the formation of opinions) … somewhat weighty stuff.

But at the end of each session, to awaken the students’ curiosity and confidence in asking questions … I let them ask me whatever they wanted.

Dangerous, right?

It was fantastic. I was asked everything from my opinion on physician assisted suicide and the topics on which I most enjoy reporting, to my favorite color and whether I was a dog person or cat person.

And then … I was asked whether I liked Hot Pockets and watched SpongeBob. That kid is going to have his own TV show someday, I’m pretty certain.

For the most part, the students were respectful, engaged and fun without going too far off the deep end. I hope they learned a little something from me.

(OK, I teased one young man, “You’re going to go home and triple check every headline you read and perform a self-assessment on every opinion you form for the rest of your life, right?” He rolled his eyes and walked out saying “Oh, yeah, I’m going to do that. Yep. … Thanks.”)

There are a lot of good, smart young people out there, folks. It can be easy to forget sometimes. A lot of them deserve more credit than we know-it-all adults give them.

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During the course of the day I got a minuscule taste of what teachers must go through, as the students transition from their pre-lunch to post-lunch selves. For those about to rock their classrooms all over again Monday morning, I salute you.

Based on an entirely unscientific timeframe of observation, I propose the school day should begin at 8 a.m., be made up of 7, 25-minute classes with five minutes between, lunch should be served at noon — then kids should get 45 minutes of recess/gym and be sent home to sleep the rest of the day.

No?

Eh. Sorry, kids. It was worth a shot.

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One more note. In all the sessions where I was speaking with high schoolers, I asked how many in the room were old enough to vote. Only a handful were. But there was a change in their faces as they raised their hands — perhaps especially because we were discussing fact-checking and the formation of opinions.

Voting is a big deal, folks. Whether it is your first vote, your 40th, or just your first in a while. If you have not already done it, you are running out of time. Tuesday is your last shot.

So much is at stake even if this is but a lowly mid-term election. Do not make the mistake of assuming others will cast the votes for you. Get out and add your voice.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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