SHEENA BARNETT: Lessons abound at MSPA

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

For all my weird social awkwardness and hang-ups, I’ve been surprised to learn I actually kinda dig teaching.
I’ve taught at the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association conference at Ole Miss for the last few years, giving high school students insight into how to write reviews and entertainment stories.
In the basement of Farley Hall – in the same space that housed Rebel Radio when I was a student there – I play songs for the students to review and ask them entertainment news trivia questions, and I give them 50 cent toys from grocery store vending machines as prizes.
Some years haven’t gone so smoothly: me and my heaping amounts of social anxiety have flown through the classes too quickly, or I play a song the students absolutely abhor.
With each passing year, I could feel the distance between the teenagers and myself.
I was just a few years older than those kids, but when some of those students said the new song I chose for them to review sounded “so five years ago,” yeah, I felt my age.
This year, though, I was super lucky.
I had two packed classes full of really fun, smart students, who laughed at my horrible jokes and actually liked the song I played (it was “Window Sill” by Pickwick, for those who need some awesome new music).
They wrote fantastic reviews for the song and asked great questions.
Afterward, I talked to a few about music.
One guy – sorry, I’m terrible with names! – and I discussed how great the Alabama Shakes is, how we both went to the same Dead Weather show and I told him he should check out Jason Isbell.
Another student, Katie, and I discussed our mutual affection for Justin Timberlake, and I told her she should check out Memphis’ original soul stirrer, Al Green.
It was fun to connect with the students, and I hope I get more fun classes in the future.
Teens are the trendsetters and are like little pop culture crystal balls, always ahead of what’s going to be hot next, so it’s fun to pick their brains.
At the same time, I think I’ll stay squarely in adulthood, thank you very much.
It’s good to know I can still speak their language, but I don’t miss the dramas and cliques of high school.
They say those are the best years of your life, but I don’t buy it.
I prefer being able to do or say or wear or listen to whatever you want, without worrying if it fits in with whatever stereotype your peers have you pegged as. It’s nice to, as an adult, break free of that silliness.
Thanks to my awesome students this year – I hope I taught you a little something. You definitely taught me a lesson or two.

SHEENA BARNETT writes for the Daily Journal. Contact her at

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