Head of School Blog

Deployments and Homecomings

With more than twenty-one years of working in education, and twenty-one homecoming weeks under my belt, I consider myself something of a homecoming week expert. Homecoming weeks always consist of crazy, creative outfits, students stressed out about parade floats and dance dates (not always in that order), and teachers trying to maintain order and keep the academic progress moving forward amidst the chaos. Homecoming weeks are fun and exhausting, as they offer a welcome break from the routine while simultaneously reminding us of the benefits of the routine.

Today, I experienced my second favorite homecoming memory, as our lower campus neighbor, Hope Community Church, hosted a special service to honor and pray over members of the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade and the 2-130th Aviation Operations Battalion who are deploying to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. As the soldiers and their families arrived, they were greeted by over 400 flag-waving, cheering GRACE students and staff members decked out in as much red, white, and blue as possible. In a week filled with debates over the meaning of patriotism and symbolic speech, it was incredibly powerful to see the staff and students demonstrate their support of our servicemen and servicewomen. The soldiers shared hugs and high-fives, took selfies, and thanked our students for their support. Soldiers and staff members alike shed tears as we thanked them for serving our nation. The soldiers concluded their time with the students by marching in formation between the rows of GRACE students before entering the church for the formal service.

There is a certain irony in that these servicemen and servicewomen came onto our campus in preparation for their deployment as we celebrate our school’s homecoming week. As they prepare to leave their homes and families, we are eagerly anticipating the return of GRACE alumni for our parade, football game and other weekend activities. Please join me in praying for not only these, but all of our servicemen and servicewomen throughout the world (including class of 2010 GRACE alumni Kenny Yacynych, currently serving in Afghanistan, pictured) who place themselves in harm’s way so that we may enjoy the freedoms for which so many have fought and died before them. Please pray that God would watch over and protect them so that in the not too distant future, they can enjoy a blessed homecoming of their own with their loved ones.

In case you were wondering, my all-time favorite homecoming week memory is easy to pick and will never be topped. In 2009, the date of the homecoming dance fell on the same day as my wife’s due date with our youngest child. Amy, always a trooper, chaperoned the dance with me, staying at the venue until the last student left. About eight hours later, she gave birth to Audrey. I had not thought about it until now, but maybe that is why Audrey always wants to go all out when it comes to dressing up for homecoming.

Blessings, Eric Bradley

Giving at GRACE, Part 3

This year at GRACE we would like to make better use of the corporations that have a philanthropic focus and maximize how purchases made by our GRACE community can have a bigger impact on our annual fund.Both affinity (give back) programs and corporate gift matching programs allow GRACE to benefit from purchases and donations you are already making. This year, we would like to emphasize the value of your participation in these programs and increase the funds raised from under $3,000 last year to $20,000 this year.

Affinity Organizations

Affinity programs rebate a percentage of your purchase to the charity of your choice. In addition to amazon.com, almost all the local grocery stores participate in some sort of give back program. If you have not already done so this year, take a moment to use the instructions listed below to link your account to GRACE. Note: Most grocery store programs require families to relink your account each school year. You can also download No Effort Fundraising if you would prefer a hard copy of the information below.

Amazon – smile.amazon.com

  • AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that lets customers enjoy the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as on Amazon.com. The difference is that when customers shop on AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organizations selected by customers.
  • Select GREATER RALEIGH AREA CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, INC. to designate GRACE as your charitable organization.

Harris Teeter – Together in Education

  • Harris Teeter’s Together In Education program gives schools a chance to earn funds when you link your VIC card and shop Harris Teeter brands. There are NO LIMITS to how much a school can earn.
  • Link your VIC card to GRACE by selecting 2768 GRACE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL RALEIGH on the Harris Teeter Together in Education Webpage.
  • Note: You MUST re-link every year!

Kroger – Community Rewards Program

  • Year after year, local schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations will earn millions of dollars through Kroger Community Rewards. Kroger Community Rewards makes fund-raising easy..all you have to do is shop at Kroger and swipe your Plus Card!
  • Link your Kroger card to GRACE by selecting 82226 Grace Christian School on the Kroger Community Rewards Webpage.
  • Note: You MUST re-link every year!

Lowes Foods

  • With Cart to Class, Lowes Foods designated schools will be rewarded based on the amount of Lowes Foods Private Label items you purchase.
  • Select GRACE from the eligible school list on the Lowe’s Back 2 Schools website.

Publix Partners

  • Through Publix Partners, all purchases made at Publix will help earn money for our school. For every $37,500 spent cumulatively by GRACE families, Publix will award GRACE $250.
  • Pick up a Publix Partner bar code card at either campus reception desk and scan it at check out.

Box Tops for Education

  • Each box top is worth 10¢ for our school! Look for the pink Box Tops on hundreds of products, clip, and submit to either campus office.
  • No registration or linking is required, although you can earn bonus box tops by joining on the Box Tops website. Search for 27606 (swipe left to see the full list of schools) and select GRACE.

Corporate Gift Matching

Many corporations match donations made by employees to a wide range of nonprofits, to support employee charitable giving, and to extend corporate philanthropy.

Matching donations, or matching gifts, are free money that nonprofits often miss out on because of limited information on donors’ employers, complex corporate giving programs, and because the corporate matching process is usually unknown for employees.

In light of this, GRACE now subscribes to a service named Double the Donation to make it easier for GRACE families to find out if their companies provide corporate gift matching.  Go to https://doublethedonation.com/gracechristianschool to locate your company and links to instructions and forms to multiply the donation you already plan to make to GRACE. Below is a partial list of the top employers in the Raleigh-Durham area that have gift matching programs:

  • AT&T
  • Biogen
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC
  • Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T)
  • Cisco
  • Citrix Systems
  • Credit Suisse
  • Duke Energy
  • Eli Lilly & Company
  • Fidelity Investments
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • IBM
  • Lenovo
  • Merck & Company
  • MetLife
  • QuintilesIMS
  • Red Hat, Inc.
  • SAS Institute
  • Time Warner and Subsidiaries (Synapse, Time, Turner, Warner Bros)
  • United Airlines
  • Verizon
  • Wells Fargo & Company
  • Xerox Corporation

The Tech-Wise Family

In a recent Barna study, 78% of responded that they “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” to the statement “Raising kids today is more complicated than it was when [we] were kids.” When asked why they felt that way, 65% of the respondents said that it was due to technology and social media. Technology permeates every aspect of our lives, and the lives of our children, in ways unprecedented in human history.  

With that in mind, GRACE is offering a parent book study of The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today and author of several books. Click here to watch a book trailer. Crouch writes in the introduction, “This book is about much more than just social media, or even screens. It’s about how to live as full, flourishing human beings.”

Crouch discusses the implications of technology, and the importance for families to consider technology in relation to questions like, How do we want to be as a family? How does our use of technology help move us closer or further away from that goal? This book is insightful, and will provide for excellent discussion and consideration for how we manage technology in our daily lives and homes.

We plan to meet for book talks from 8:30 AM until 10:00 AM on the following dates:

  • Thursday, October 5
  • Monday, October 16
  • Monday, October 30

The three meetings will be led by Eric Bradley and Julia Taylor and will take place at Hope Community Church. We will establish a room for the sessions once we find out how many individuals register for the study. So that we can adequately plan space, please sign up to attend.

The book is available at every major online vendor, Barnes and Noble, or Christian bookstore.

 

Giving at GRACE, Part 2

In this second part of the series on Giving at GRACE, we will unpack where our Annual Fund dollars have come from in the past and how we would like to change the composition going forward.

Between 2010 and 2016, a variety of annual fund “events” have been held including several golf tournaments, a couple of black-tie dinners and, more recently, the Boosterthon fun and color runs. All of these events share a “give to get” structure that requires a significant portion of the funds raised to underwrite the event giveaways. As a result, participation in these events supported both GRACE and the organization that we partnered with in providing the event.

The pie chart below displays the sources of Annual Fund giving for 2016-2017. The three blue wedges represent contributions made by the GRACE community either as “direct donations” to the annual fund or through participation in one of the aforementioned fundraising events. Overall, 84% of giving has come from these mechanisms and only 16% from other sources.

As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, our goal is to increase contributions from other sources to 30% and reduce the portion of the Annual Fund that comes from direct donations made by GRACE families. We accomplish this by moving away from “give-to-get” events like Boosterthon and its predecessors so that we can maximize the dollars donated by the GRACE community. Additionally, we would like to increase our participation in Affinity Programs and Corporate Gift Matching programs. Next week, we will highlight these two programs and how you can increase your contributions to GRACE without doing anything differently than you have been doing in the past.

The above chart reveals that the Business Partner program has doubled in size from last year. We are so thankful for the support of these business owners and would like to use the space that remains to thank the businesses who have made a significant impact on the GRACE Annual Fund. We encourage the GRACE family to support these businesses when you have needs that they can meet and refer them to your network of friends when possible.

Golden Eagle Partners ($5,000 Annual Contribution)

Silver Eagle Partners ($3,000 Annual Contribution)

Bronze Eagle Partners ($1,000 Annual Contribution)

Thank you for taking the time to review this information. We hope that this is helpful as we begin the new school year. As always, thank you for selecting GRACE Christian School and partnering with us in the education of your child.

Giving to GRACE, Part 1

We are aware that throughout the school year, many financial requests are made of you.  We would like you to better understand these requests so that you can make informed decisions throughout the year.

The GRACE Annual Fund

The Annual Fund is the most important area of fundraising for GRACE and provides the resources to make improvements to our campus facilities, instructional technology, and professional development opportunities that otherwise would have to be delayed or eliminated. We will request Annual Fund donations three times:

  • Annual Fund Campaign, October 2017
  • End of Year Giving, December 2017
  • Celebrate GRACE Fundraising Event, March 2018

This Fundraising Annual Fund Infographic shows where our annual fund dollars came from during 2016-2017 and how we would like to shift that going forward. Giving to GRACE, Part 2 will give additional explanation and details to each section of the pie charts. Also included in the infographic is the distribution of how annual fund dollars have been spent over the past three years, both by type of investment and by campus.  

Thank you for taking the time to review this information. We hope that this is helpful as we begin the new school year and we ask that you begin now to prayerfully consider how you can support the GRACE Annual Fund.

Thoughts on Charlottesville

Like me, you were no doubt shocked and sickened by the events in Charlottesville this past weekend. We know that we live in a world filled with sin and hate, but in the last few days this fact has been placed vividly in front of us. For the majority of the individuals who read this note, we live a lifestyle that insulates us from the worst aspects of this evil reality. However, times like these shock us to attention and provide an important reminder that we can not sit idle while, as 1 Peter 5:8 states, “your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Earlier today, I read a post from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia. While many have shared condemnation over the events in Charlottesville, Archbishop Chaput’s words resonate. After sharing that “Racism is a poison of the soul” and calling for prayers for those injured in the violence from the weekend, Chaput shares:

But we need more than pious public statements. If our anger today is just another mental virus displaced tomorrow by the next distraction or outrage we find in the media, nothing will change. Charlottesville matters. It’s a snapshot of our public unraveling into real hatreds brutally exposed; a collapse of restraint and mutual respect now taking place across the country. We need to keep the images of Charlottesville alive in our memories. If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversation in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others. That may sound simple. But the history of our nation and its tortured attitudes toward race proves exactly the opposite.

As a school community dedicated to Christ and with a mission to train up young people “to impact their world for Christ”, we have a profound opportunity and responsibility to change this narrative moving forward on behalf of our children, and their children. As a community, we must be willing to look introspectively at our practices to make sure that we celebrate the unity found in and through Christ, to have the “conversation in our own hearts” referenced by Chaput. Are we modeling a better way for our children? We, the adults in the community, must be willing to have uncomfortable conversations. We must also stand up for those who are suffering and oppressed. If we want our culture at large to change, we need to make sure that we are equipping our children with the ability to empathize, understand, and reflect the love of Christ to everyone.

In closing, I want to share a passage from Eric Metaxas’s book 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness. I highly recommend this book, a collection of biographies of seven Christian men who impacted the world for Christ. In a paragraph about German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Metaxas writes:

Bonhoeffer was perhaps the first of his countrymen to see that Christians were obliged to speak out for those who could not, to “be a voice for the voiceless.” In the case of Nazi Germany, that meant the Jews. At one point Bonhoeffer made the incendiary statement that “only he who stands up for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” What he meant was that if we were not heroically and courageously doing what God wanted us to do, God was not interested in our public displays of worship. To sing to God when we were not doing what God called us to do was to be a hypocrite. Many were offended at Bonhoeffer’s outspokenness on these issues. But he insisted that Jesus was the “man for others,” and to follow Jesus meant to stand up for the dignity of those who were different than us.

Blessings to you and yours,

Eric Bradley

GRACE Christian School is a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Christ.

 

 

Building Community

Dear GRACE Community,

As we begin the 2017-2018 school year, our 35th year of Christian education, GRACE continues to value our loving and caring community. It is, without a doubt, our greatest asset in nurturing the next generation, a point that was brought up frequently in parent coffees, family interviews, and the end-of-year parent survey.  Within the context of our loving community, GRACE’s mission is to not only equip your children spiritually and academically, but also with skills that will enable them to be successful in life, at every age, in and out of the classroom. To this end, you will be seeing the phrase “Equipping Students for Life” throughout our communications this year. We continue to partner with you to prepare your children for college, but also for overcoming challenges, facing failure, working collaboratively, and a host of other skills that will enable them to thrive in our ever-changing world. It is our strong belief that this will help our students to develop their God-given gifts and talents in a way that enables them to impact their world for Christ.  

The loving community that surrounds our student body is foundational to our school identity.  A few years ago, I read the book The Boys in the Boat, an excellent account of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team. Each member of the team brought unique talents to the group and each individual played a vital role in the team’s success. The book provides an incredible illustration of the power of team and community. As with the rowing team, every member of the GRACE community has an important role to play. Some have been blessed with the gift of time and we value it greatly as our on-campus volunteers are an essential part of GRACE running smoothly. Some have been blessed with gifts and talents that can be utilized during special events during the year. Some have been blessed with financial resources that enable us to enhance our students’ opportunities. Our GRACE Community represents  a local body of Christ, and as such, each contribution is valuable. As Paul shares in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12: 18-21) Each individual part of our GRACE body brings value to the whole.

We want to grow together this year as a community and we want to encourage each family to be in relationship with the faculty, staff, and other families at GRACE. To that end, we plan to be intentional in providing opportunities for growth and fellowship among our community, including the following:

  • Head of School Coffees and Luncheons – In my inaugural year at GRACE, I hosted several coffee events. These served as a great way for me to get to know the community. My plan is to continue to host these informal fellowship sessions, or something similar, during the school year. Dates will be announced via email or #WhatsUpAtGRACE.
  • Men of GRACE: Donuts for Dads – GRACE fathers have a tradition of gathering each month for a special time of devotion, fellowship, and consumption of donuts. This is a great opportunity for men throughout the GRACE community to build relationships, learn from one another, and grow through the special messages provided by a guest speaker. Contact Greg Robinson for more information.
  • Women of GRACE: Prayer Teams – Every week, groups of GRACE moms gather to share a time of prayer for our community. Contact Lucille Sossaman or Lori Ritterskamp for more information.
  • Principal Coffees  – During the first quarter, Mrs. Gill and Mrs. Thompson provide opportunities for parents in each grade level to discuss issues specific to that age group. Dates for 2017-2018 can be found on the GRACE Academic Calendar (search for Principal Coffee).
  • Parent Teacher Fellowship – PTF committees provide parents with opportunities to become involved in the school in the areas of their respective interests and expertise. See the PTF Page on the GRACE Website for more information.
  • Book Clubs – We are working with the PTF leadership team to develop a series of book studies for parents during the upcoming year. Details about the books and meeting times will be available at a later date.
  • Friday Night Tailgating – This fall, the Eagles Club will be partnering with the Athletic Department to create tailgating events at our home football games.  

As we focus more intentionally on connecting members of the GRACE community in meaningful ways, we will also be changing the manner in which we request financial contributions in the hopes of maximizing the benefit of your generosity. We are completing plans to transition the majority of field trips and monetary classroom “asks” into a grade level activity fee that would be assessed at the beginning of the year, but could be paid over the course of the entire school year, like tuition. We are also working to reduce the number of asks in support of myriad causes throughout the year. For instance, we are not conducting a Boosterthon event this year. From a development standpoint, we will be placing a renewed emphasis on investing in our annual fund by asking you to prayerfully consider to support GRACE financially by participating in one of the following giving opportunities:

  1. October: 10 Day Annual Fund Giving Campaign
  2. December: End of Year Giving
  3. March: Celebrate GRACE Annual Fundraising Dinner

Our annual fund allows us to go above and beyond our operational budget to enhance the GRACE experience in ways that directly benefit your students as well as accelerate the process of improving our campuses. In recent years, the annual fund giving has been used for the following upgrades:

  • Classroom renovations on both campuses;
  • Security cameras on both campuses;
  • Upper Campus renovations of the Chapel, Activity Building, and second floor classrooms;
  • Lower Campus remodeling of the fifth-grade and sixth-grade hallway and locker areas;
  • Sound equipment for the fine arts program;
  • Purchase of a fourteen passenger bus;
  • Athletic equipment;
  • New computers benefitting both campuses;
  • Installation and implementation of the Raptor security system on both campuses;
  • A complete overhaul of the bathrooms on the lower campus; and
  • New HVAC systems for the lower campus.

Thank you for the opportunity to partner with your family. We look forward to a great year and to seeing what God has in store for us in the coming months.

My GRACE Experience Part 2

This post was written by Head of School, Eric Bradley

Last week, I referenced Joshua’s leadership on the journey out of the wilderness and the dedication of the twelve stones to symbolize God’s blessings on the community. I also noted that this was part of Joshua’s standard operating procedure: seek God’s direction, follow God’s guidance, pause to give thanks, and then move forward. This week’s post focuses on the idea of moving forward.

Celebrate GRACE in many ways is our version of Joshua’s memorial stones on the banks of the Jordan River. It was a time to honor God for the blessings he has poured out over our community as we paused from our crazy schedules, gathered together, and told stories of God’s goodness. From that place of remembrance and thanksgiving, we look forward. As we look forward, my vision is that our future GRACE experience will include the following:

  • We will be a school where each student is known as an individual and knows that he or she is loved first and foremost by God, but also by the adults who surround them.
  • We will be leaders in the use of technology, something that we can already celebrate as a strength, but an area that requires near constant investment and a vigilant eye on the horizon.
  • Our teachers  will have the best opportunities for professional development, and a system within our school that supports and rewards those teachers who dare to innovate and inspire our kids.
  • We will be seen as leaders in growing students academically, spiritually, and emotionally.
  • We will cultivate students who are thinkers and dreamers, filled with hope of what they can do with God’s help and the gifts He has given them.
  • We will help to instill in our students a joy that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, Joshua used the stones to symbolize God’s love for His people. In the New Testament, Peter uses the imagery of stones somewhat differently. In First Peter chapter 2, Peter describes Jesus Christ as the living stone who is the foundation of our faith. He also calls us to be living stones, building a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood. One commentary on this verse states, “What God does in us together is important. He is building something out of us together.” Teachers, coaches, fellow parents, and classmates are some of the living stones in our children’s lives. It is our prayer that when they look back on their years at GRACE, they will remember those that invested in building their spiritual house, but, as living stones, they will always look forward to opportunities to serve God. May these living stones be a testimony to all that God has done to bless our community.

My GRACE Experience – Part 1

This post was written by Head of School, Eric Bradley

In March, I participated in a mission trip to Costa Rica with eight high school students, and two other members of the GRACE staff. It was an incredible experience. I was amazed by what our students were able to accomplish, and proud to be part of their community. During our time in Costa Rica, we studied the story of Joshua during their transition from the time in the wilderness to their arrival in the Promised Land. Joshua chapter 4 shares the account of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. After they crossed Joshua gathered 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, and stacked them up together as a remembrance of what God had done. The stones were there to make sure they never forgot the experience.  Then they moved forward into the Promised Land. Throughout the book of Joshua, this pattern is repeated: pausing before or after big events, taking time to remember and honor God’s covenant, then pushing forward.

Each member of our community has a GRACE experience. Every student, teacher, parent, grandparent, and staff member have a story to tell about how this community has impacted their life. Each story is different. Each story is personal. My GRACE experience began a little over a year ago with a telephone conversation with JB Baker, the board member in charge of the Head of School selection committee.

  • My GRACE experience includes families who reached out to my wife, Amy, and I as we moved to this area making us feel welcome.  
  • It includes the experience of my middle school daughter, Amelia, and volleyball tryouts when all she could talk about was how kind and encouraging the players and coaches were.
  • It includes watching middle and high school English teachers abandon Plan B and scramble on the first day of school when we received our certificate of occupancy for their new classrooms fifteen minutes before the first bell rang.
  • My GRACE experience includes moms who send notes to let me know they are praying for me and dads who meet the first Friday of every month to eat donuts, share a devotion, and swap stories about their glory days.
  • My GRACE experience includes spending time with our youngest students at  lunch, having staring contests, showing off my goofy socks, and wrecking the ten minutes of quiet that their teachers are trying to establish.
  • It includes getting doused by middle and high school students with colored powder during the color run, and the memorable moments on the 1101 campus when the students occasionally have been kind enough to say hi to the awkward new guy in the hallway.
  • My GRACE experience includes being allowed to participate in the high school retreat, celebrating state titles in cross country and swimming, joining the record crowd of over 1000 people at Homecoming as our football team beat our cross-town rivals, cheering our basketball team with big wins over our cross-town rivals again, and watching our kids perform in Annie and in The Miracle Worker.
  • It includes attending a funeral and hearing incredible testimonies of lives impacted by GRACE teaching assistant Sherry Lunsford during her tenure at this school.
  • It includes praying with staff members dealing with the different challenges that take place during the life of a school, life in a community.
  • It includes participating in the artSpark walk downtown.
  • My experience includes more than a dozen coffees with parents to learn about their GRACE experiences.
  • Perhaps most importantly to me, My GRACE experience includes hearing my children talk about how much their teachers love them, and watching a community welcome them into the fold.

What is your GRACE experience? Have you stopped to thank God for what he has provided through GRACE? Before you click, take a moment to think about your GRACE experience and the impact this community has made on you and your family. I have been blessed over the course of the past nine months to hear countless stories of God’s blessings over members of the GRACE community. Next week, following Joshua’s lead, I will share some more about my GRACE experience, as well as take some time to share thoughts about the future of GRACE.

Fighting Fake and Biased News

This blog post is written by Daniel O’Brien, our 7th-12th grade Media Specialist and originally appeared in the 21st Century GRACE blog on February 4, 2017.

I am currently working with our Senior Seminar classes during a 3-day mini-unit in which we investigate news. As it turns out, many students have a difficult time interpreting the news — but truthfully, who doesn’t have difficulty interpreting news when we are constantly bombarded by sensationalized headlines from all points on the political spectrum every time we check a social media account?

During this mini-unit, we take time to look at how fake news is created. We study the example of Eric Tucker’s tweet that falsely claimed to have found “paid protester” buses at a Trump rally, how it was picked up by message boards, reposted, shared on Facebook, and then re-tweeted by the President himself; and how, despite reaching 16.7 million people, the story was completely false, debunked and admitted to later on. We also examine the article on “Fake News Sausage Factories,” as well as Cameron Harris, examining why websites publish sensationalized, fictitious, and inflammatory stories, and exactly how easy it is for them to publish these stories. (Hint: They want the ad revenue from when you click on the link — it is all monetarily driven). We also talk about tips for evaluating if a story is true, or sensationalized and re-shared opinions.

We then shift gears and investigate bias within news. After talking about what elements of the news contain and portray bias, we take a look at a neutral tragic event, like the San Bernardino or Sandy Hook shootings. We choose one of these events because it is a starting point; everyone can agree that these events are tragedies. Each student is given an article published by a news source, ranging from fairly unbiased to one of the many conspiracy-laden “news” sources on the internet.

After evaluating the article, they try and place the source on the following spectrum:

  • liberal conspiracy theories/garbage
  • left bias
  • left-center bias
  • least biased
  • right-center bias
  • right bias
  • conservative conspiracy theories/garbage.

Students need to back up their placement with reasoning. Next, they take a look at a heavily political article of their choice from the same source and repeat the process. They’re given the opportunity to re-examine and change their minds in light of a heavily politicized and opinionated issue.

After this second round, I introduce them to Media Bias Fact Check. Media Bias Fact Check is a resource that is invaluable when assessing the onslaught of news posts and publications we see each day. Not only do they create and explain a methodology for evaluating the bias of any particular news source and list sources that fall under different biases, they also take into account and inform you of conspiracy websites, “questionable sources” (aka fake news), what sources are least biased, and even provide a Google Chrome Extension that activates and provides this information when you visit a news source.

We then finish by discussing the importance of following more than one viewpoint in the  news, and talk about how to cross-cut your news feed with unbiased sources as well as sources from across the political spectrum — thereby breaking yourself free of the echo chamber that so easily occurs in our normal news consumption and social media curation.

As time goes on it will only become more difficult to determine legitimacy and bias within news, and that it is incredibly important to teach our students that you can’t believe everything you read, and that it is possible to be intentional and smart about the choices they make as they grow up in an age of information overload.