Redux: Rookie Teachers Lead the Way

The D.C. public schools always seem to be at the center of the school reform debate. Maybe it's because our lawmakers must (briefly) consider sending their children to these troubled schools, or perhaps tactics like Shaw-Garnet-Patterson Middle School's pay-to-behave experiment just make for good headlines. NPR's Claudio Sanchez returned to D.C.'s Shaw-Garnet-Patterson Middle School to see how some of the school's youngest teachers are faring.

22-year-old Meredith Leonard teaches sixth grade English. She may not have an education degree, but that doesn't mean she can't teach. Leonard is stern and fair, but not afraid to inject some fun into the classroom. She reinforces her students' research skills by having them look up the origins of the Twinkie. She's quick to reprimand bad behavior, but believes that every student can develop a love of learning - regardless of their background or home life. Leonard's students love coming to class. She actually has to shoo them away when the bell rings.

24-year-old Nicholas Fiorelli is having more trouble as a first year teacher. He doesn't exude the same confidence as Leonard and the kids love to push his buttons. He too is trying unconventional means to get students' attention. If a student misbehaves, Fiorelli has been known to call his or her parents during class. It's a tactic that works, but often at the expense of his lesson plan.

Older teachers worry about rookie teachers, according to Sanchez. Yet young teachers are the linchpin in D.C. Schools Chancellor Michele Rhee's proposal to enact merit pay and do away with tenure. No matter how you feel about the issue, take a few minutes to listen to this engaging piece. It's a rare glimpse into D.C.'s public school classrooms and the front lines of school reform.

(photo by Chris Campbell)

Redux: Day to Someday Soon

Today is Day to Day's final episode. After nearly six years of digging beneath the headlines to discover how the daily news affects people's lives, Day to Day is no more.

If you were expecting weepy reflections on glory days gone by, look elsewhere. There are no maudlin fare-the-wells, no sappy navel gazing. Instead, brace yourself for a few well earned peals of laughter.

Highlights include:

- Mike Pesca's favorite interviews for Day to Day... with a sock puppet, a loaf of bread, and a sports star or two.

- Be easy, Day to Day and other hip-hop slang for saying goodbye.

- How to say goodbye to childhood from the always impressive crew at Youth Radio.

The tone of the entire episode is uplifting and surprisingly optimistic. It's as if hosts Madeleine Brand and Alex Cohen are reaching through the airwaves give you a little hug and say, "This is a great show. There will be many, many more great shows, so stay tuned."

Thanks for keeping it classy, Day to Day.

(photo by Peter Kaminski)

Blog: Beer, Bands, and Breakfast Tacos - Public Radio Style

The streets of Austin, Texas are clogged with hipsters in black skinny jeans. They have perfectly tousled hair, giant 80s sunglasses, and the most important accessory of all - a plastic badge or wristband. South by Southwest Music has just begun and it's a safe bet that 6th street is already littered with empty beer cans. If the recession has put a damper on your SXSW plans, never fear. Public radio will save the day with live broadcasts designed to bring the best of Austin to your couch.

- NPR Music knows how to put on a party. Gather up a bunch of bands (Blitzen Trapper, Thao With The Get Down Stay Down, and K'Naan just to name a few), book a great venue, and hand out free beer. Okay, the beer is pure speculation, but since PBR is an official NPR Music sponsor, it's not unlikely. Listen live from the comfort of your computer stating at 1:30 ET on Thursday. No neon bracelets or ironic t-shirts required.

- If you must actually see your favorite bands rock out, don't miss KEXP's live video stream. You could hoof it to the ME Studios two miles South of downtown Austin, or better yet, heat up a pot of queso and watch the show from your laptop. Friday's line up includes Andrew Bird, M.Ward, and Peter Bjorn and John.

- It wouldn't be SXSW without Austin's own KUT. This year's party includes T Bird and the Breaks, The Rosebuds, and Jon Langford. If you can't make it to MoMo's on Friday night, listen live on KUT.org. Spill beer on your own shoes for the full SXSW experience.

Keep an eye out for public radio folks blogging from the festival:

- Minnesota Public Radio won't have a giant van of indie rock goodness this year, but they will be live blogging throughout the week. Let's shed a collective tear for Free Yr Radio and live vicariously through The Current's bloggers instead.

- Oregon Public Broadcasting's Jeremy Petersen will gleefully drag you away from the SXSW headliners. Check out his guide to SXSW bands with silly names that will surely impress even your hippest friends.

- Word of Mouth from New Hampshire Public Radio is on the scene. Producer Avishay Artsy spent last week in darkened movie theaters, trying to watch as many SXSW films as his eyeballs would allow. Now he's blinking in the Texas sun, ready to shove countless hours of music between his ears. Tune in to Word of Mouth on Tuesday for the full report.

- WBEZ contributor Matthew Wettergreen blogged his way through SXSW Interactive last week. Up next, plenty of music, pizza, and late night musings.

Did we miss anyone? If you're wandering around Austin with your microphone (or laptop) let us know and we'll add you to the list.

(photo by nikolai36 )

Redux: Twitter (didn't) Kill The Radio Star

I'll admit, I was skeptical when I heard that John Moe would be devoting an entire hour to twitter. Twitter is one of those things you either get or you don't. Since it's free, why not skip the rhapsodizing and find out for yourself?

Then I thought about all the times people have asked me to explain Twitter. It's not an easy task. "Microblogging" doesn't mean much to someone who doesn't blog in the first place. If you want to tell all your friends about the deadly burrito you just ate, Facebook does the job just fine. So how do you convey the political, economic, and networking possibilities of life boiled down to 140 characters?

Of course, we hear from some experts: Julio Ojeda-Zapata and Jamie Thingelstad. But what makes this broadcast especially interesting are the comments from users about how they actually use the thing. A Latin professor uses Twitter to help his students learn vocab words. A journalist finds story ideas and potential sources through Twitter. John Hodgman uses Twitter to trade witty banter (and endear himself) to his readers.

Plus, John Moe frees us from the dopey term "tweet." Any idea what we should call our Twitter missives now?

(photo by blue_j)

Redux: "You Don't Even Need a Car in Alert Bay"

Take a walk with five Canadian teenagers from Alert Bay. About 2,000 people live on this small island and many of them are related. It's an idyllic place to grow up, but it's also an island with a troubled history. Last summer, the CBC's Neil Sandell and Teresa Goff took the 45 minute ferry ride to Alert Bay. There they asked five teenagers to record the sounds and stories of their lives.

These simple, beautiful portraits of life on a remote British Columbia island are breathtaking. They transport you to a different world, where being a teenager is about waving to your neighbors (who are likely your cousins) and grilling salmon on the beach. High speed internet, Facebook, and satellite TV are common, but I have a feeling that sexting is not. Instead, teens here have more time to notice the dragonflies and berries that dot their tiny town... and reflect on how life on their island is changing.

(photo by iGrrl)

Redux: You, 16 years old, Half-Naked, On the Internet

Camera phones are everywhere. They're great for taking photos of random things you see on the airplane or in your neighborhood. And if you're a teenager with a MySpace page, your camera phone is the perfect way to take dozens of narcissistic self-portraits... with or without clothes on.

Let's say you send one of those naughty pics to a friend or a boyfriend. Maybe he emails it to his buddy who forwards it to half the football team. Suddenly your parents are in the principal's office, forced to answer the supremely awkward question, "We have pictures of your daughter naked. Do you want to see them?" It's called "sexting" and according to Chana Joffe-Walt's recent story on All Things Considered as many as 1 in 5 teens do it.

It's a shocking statistic, especially when I think back on my teenage years. The idea of wearing a bikini to the town pool was mortifying. Emailing half-naked photos to friends would have left me scrambling for my coverup well into adulthood. I'm so glad I graduated high school back when cordless phones had foot-long antennas and cameras required film.

(photo by Ed Schipul)

Blog: Part blog, part podcast, all awesome: Radiolingual

The Association of Independent's (AIR) Live Interactive Resident Hammad Ahmed and his cohort Emily Eagle have been very busy over at Jack Straw Productions and KUOW. They recently launched RADIOLINGUAL, a website that's "part blog, part podcast, part teaching diary--all about learning another language and playing with language through audio."

The project starts with non-native English speakers who come up with questions, record sounds, and write stories that get posted to the site. Visitors of the site are then asked to leave their voice comments, using a handy dandy tool that allows you to record audio. All of the audio is then used as material for Hammad and Emily to work their radio/podcast magic. Pretty darn cool. Even if I didn't work for AIR, I would still think so.

Want to participate? Hop on over to RADIOLINGUAL and answer their current question, "Can you think of a multilingual pun?"

Blog: 149 Years and 311 Days

These days the people who report the stories are all to often becoming the stories.

Back in December, National Public Radio did a series called American Moxie: How We Get By to document how American were dealing with the current economic situation. In the middle of the series senior correspondent Ketzel Levine found out that she had been laid off along with 63 other NPR staffers. She turned her microphone inward and talked about herself.

If possible, commercial media has been hit harder than public media and on December 4, Scripps President and CEO, Rich Boehne, announced the Rocky Mountain News was up for sale. On a Thursday a few months later with no offer, Boehne announced that after 149 years and 311 days of operation that Friday would be the Rocky's last issue.

Like good journalists, Matthew Roberts and the Rocky team created a video documentary about the final days. This is a touching and heartbreaking work especially because this is exactly what media organizations need to be doing in a wired world.

To the talented Rocky staff, we wish you the best of luck and are sure this isn't that last we will hear from any of you.

Blog: Instant Party

It's happened to the best of us: uber-hip friends stop by unannounced. There's no time to throw together a play list. Setting iTunes to random is not an option (I'm still living down the Cat Stevens incident of 2006). Luckily, the clever folks at Minnesota Public Radio's The Current have a solution.

Just embed this handy widget in your dashboard and viola - your taste in music is instantly respectable. If something mortifying does happen to pop up, simply click on their schedule and blame it on whoever is in the DJ booth that hour.

Thanks to John Moe for the heads up and for making me chortle at my computer on a daily basis.

Blog: Leonard Cohen (Almost) Live

When I was 13 my aunt used to taunt me with tales of seeing Leonard Cohen live on stage in the '70s. Desperate to hear his deep, sad voice with the all consuming passion that only a music-obsessed teenager can experience, I daydreamed about storming the Buddhist monastery where he lived and demanding a personal concert.

Leonard Cohen is back on tour in the U.S. for the first time in 15 years and I still can't hear him play. Rather than bombard his mailbox with letters insisting that he reroute his tour to Asheville (I have grown up a bit), I must rely on NPR's Live in Concert series to save the day. I suggest you do the same.

(photo by Michael Foley)