Student Life

Overview

Student Life

In theory, the main focus for schools and students is academics – what they learn in their classes. But in reality, students’ experiences outside of classrooms account for some of their most important learning gains, make key contributions to their academic and professional success, and play important roles in their financial, mental and physical health. 

In theory, the main focus for schools and students is academics – what they learn in their classes. But in reality, students’ experiences outside of classrooms account for some of their most important learning gains, make key contributions to their academic and professional success, and play important roles in their financial, mental and physical health. 

Students who are hungry, experiencing housing stress, obsessed with video games, or victimized by online bullying, generally don’t learn as well. On the other hand, students who actively participate in extracurricular activities or, by the time they are in college, work reasonable hours at a part-time job, are more likely to thrive in school and after graduation.

The coronavirus pandemic brought attention to just how different the lives of students are outside of the classroom and the implications those inequities have on their performance in school and in the job market. 

So coverage of students’ lives – from their housing situations to their student clubs – can generate fresh and important stories for education journalists.

Student life stories can be challenging because privacy laws often give educational institutions the cloak to withhold information. Because access to records can be a challenge, especially for K-12 reporting, source development and interviewing are especially important in covering student life. 

The resources below should also give you a good start.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

How to Put the HBCU Story in Context
Journalists share strategies for reporting on the chronic underfunding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

If the disparity in underfunding Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) could be told through two schools, consider Texas Southern University (TSU) and the University of Houston (UH). Both started around the same time with similar missions, serving populations with similar economic backgrounds. The colleges were even located across the street from each other.

EWA Radio

How Rural Schools Get Left Behind
Journalist Casey Parks shares insights on culturally competent reporting, building trust with sources, and why more reporters should pay attention to rural education. (EWA Radio Episode 277)

Writing for The New York Times Magazine, veteran education journalist Casey Parks takes readers deep inside the struggles of a rural school district in the Mississippi delta that is poised for a state takeover. She also profiles Harvey Ellington, a 16-year-old Black student with big college dreams but few opportunities for advanced learning in his cash-strapped and understaffed high school. 

EWA Radio

Home Ec’s ‘Secret History’
New book explores how home economics influenced American life and public education beyond 'stitching and stirring' (EWA Radio Episode 276)

Often overlooked and misunderstood, home economics is about far more than learning to bake cakes or sew lopsided oven mitts, argues education journalist Danielle Dreilinger. She discusses her new book, “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live.” 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Lack of Sleep Affecting Adolescent Learning? Coverage Tips for Early School Start Times
Get background, story ideas and advice.

“What’s keeping you up at night?” 

Science journalist and author Lydia Denworth posed that question to a pair of experts on adolescent development during the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar. 

“Sleep!,” speakers Adriana Galván of UCLA and Denise Pope of Stanford University both said at a panel. Adolescents, they agreed, don’t get enough of it.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

With Schools Reopening Full-Time, What Pandemic-Driven Changes Will Last?
Get 7 story ideas to help you cover K-12 and higher education shifts that may have staying power.

Despite the many hardships the pandemic caused, the COVID-19 disruption also sparked – or in some cases accelerated – changes to K-12 and higher education that leaders say should stick.

The speakers pointed to the power of flexibility, the need to focus energy and resources that will serve the “whole student,” and how increased outreach and new communication strategies with students and families could be transformative during a plenary at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar. 

Multimedia

Adolescence on the Mind: Helping Teens Out of the Pandemic

Building social connections outside the family, especially with peers, is key to healthy adolescent development. Yet isolation wrought by the pandemic has curtailed social opportunities.

What works to help adolescents overcome such setbacks? What do surveys of students in high school and middle school show about the impact of the past year?

Two national experts answered these and other questions during a May 5 session at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar.

The participants were:

  • Adriana Galván, University of California Los Angeles
  • Denise Pope, Stanford University
  • Lydia Denworth, Scientific American (Moderator)

Adolescence on the Mind: Helping Teens Out of the Pandemic

Multimedia

Knowing and Addressing Students’ Social and Emotional Needs

The pandemic has interrupted social interactions and hurt student well-being. Understanding students’ social and emotional needs will be crucial in the coming year.

What new methods are emerging for gauging social and emotional needs, competencies and learning? How has the pandemic affected SEL and what does that mean for teaching and learning?

Speakers addressed these and other issues at a May 3 session at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar.

The participants were:

  • Julia Joy Dumas Wilks, Great Oaks Charter School, Wilmington, Delaware
  • Libby Pier, Education Analytics
  • Juany Valdespino-Gaytán, Dallas Independent School District
  • Kevin McCorry, WHYY (Moderator)

Knowing and Addressing Students’ Social and Emotional Needs