Elementary students produce morning announcements

It’s a Wednesday morning at DeKalb County School District (DCSD). Throughout the district, students are arriving at school, perhaps sitting down for a morning quiz, finishing up breakfast, or reading a book.

At Browns Mill Elementary’s media center, one student intently studies a script involving the Atlanta Falcons. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, he will emphatically read the script on camera, invoking such well known sportscasters as the late Stuart Scott, Rich Eisen, and Chris Berman.

“It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Matt, the second grade student, admits. “I get so nervous. But I want to do it again and again! I’ll be great at it eventually.”

Ms. Jackson and student smile for pictureMatt is one of many Browns Mill Elementary students to take part in the school’s weekly afternoon announcement television program, headed by school media specialist Janice Jackson.

“We just started this year,” Jackson said. “We want to do more than the Pledge of Allegiance and the morning announcements. We want to be in depth. I try to get as many students and staff involved as possible.”

Every Friday, the 10-minute, weekly Browns Mill announcements can be found on DCSD’s Office 365 service. Students discuss the weather, talk trivia on a segment titled “Did you know?”, talk rhymes and riddles, tell jokes, update the school on sports, and offer study tips. In past episodes, staff have even read to students and held book talks.

“Anything that comes up, any ideas—we’ll do it,” Jackson said. “I want students to have fun. It incorporates reading skills. It helps students with public speaking. Hopefully, it will encourage students to start writing scripts.”

Jackson receives help from teachers in choosing talent, but says the announcements are open to all students and staff. She said people will come to her requesting to talk sports or discuss the weather, making her job easy. Overall, she said the writing, filming, and editing process takes at least eight hours each week.

“If I want a student from a lower grade, I’ll ask a teacher in second grade or kindergarten and we’ll go from there,” Jackson said. “Teachers enjoy it. They wait on it. We incorporate music. We incorporate birthdays. The feedback has been very positive. Everyone looks forward to it every Friday. Students are excited. They come in asking, ‘When am I going to do it? When can I do it?’ When I first started, I had an application process. I had about 20 or 25. But when they saw it, everyone wanted to do it. So I just open it up to everybody. If you want to do it, come to the media center.”

According to Jackson, DCSD’s Office 365 streaming tab allows her to see what other schools are doing and vice versa. It’s not at all outside the norm for her to receive phone calls from other schools asking for advice or seeking to trade ideas.

“It has been helpful,” Jackson said. “I’ve offered to do classes or tutorials.”

Producing quality content is nothing new for Jackson. Prior to arriving at Browns Mill Elementary, she worked at the Department of Labor as a director for marketing and public relations. Before that, she worked as a television producer at the University of Georgia and as a director at a television station in Macon.

Ms. Jackson records boy on pad-casterThe plan, she says, was to always to eventually become a media specialist at a local school. The position allows her to combine her passions with a joy for interacting with students.

“I love it. I get to do a lot of what my background in journalism has trained me to do. It’s easy to incorporate what I know into the position,” Jackson said. “I love reading, and I love helping students with reading.”

When she’s not working with students at Browns Mill, Jackson can be found working with the University of Georgia. In her spare time, she aids the college with producing documentaries involving civil rights leaders titled, “Foot Soldiers for Equal Justice”.

Perhaps in the near future, one of Jackson’s Browns Mill students will be featured as talent for a University of Georgia documentary. Until then, she plans to continue her mission of invoking excitement and fostering an appreciation for the art form.

“You have to make it exciting. Have fun with it—that’s the important thing. Don’t make it a boring newscast. Get the kids involved. Get the principal involved. Get the whole school involved,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.”