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Behind The Scenes: How A Fourth-Grade Class Reported Our Story

Mrs. Diaz-Brown's students gave us an exclusive look inside their classroom in Miami.
Photo by Sofia Iovine

So we're about halfway through our 50 Great Teachers project, and we've been looking for ways of shaking it up. We've done photo essays, web comics and videos.

These endeavors brought us to our latest idea: Instead of us reporting the story, let's let the kids do it.

Once we found a great teacher — Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown in Miami — we had to be sure she was willing to let us take over her fourth-grade class. And she was.

Step 1: Mrs. D-B (as her students affectionately call her) assigned each kid to become a journalist for a day. The task: To write a one-page article about their teacher. Here's what Mrs. D-B handed out:

All 26 students turned in their essays to us — and they were awesome! We used their words to help narrate and shape our story. They wrote about all the activities they liked, the things Mrs. D-B did in the classroom that piqued their interest, and how she was different than other teachers they'd had in the past.

Felipe's essay
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Step 2: Producer Sami Yenigun and I listened in as a group of students interviewed Mrs. D-B. They asked great questions: Why did you become a teacher? What have you learned from all your years of teaching? Did you always like to read?What is your favorite book? Why is kindness your favorite emotion?

You can listen to Mrs. D-B's answers in our story here.

NPR Ed gave cameras to students in Mrs. D-B's fourth-grade class.
Elissa Nadworny / NPR
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NPR
NPR Ed gave cameras to students in Mrs. D-B's fourth-grade class.

Step 3: We gave each student a disposable camera. I taught a short lesson about how to use them and what to look for (details, classroom activities and other students).

We got the film developed back in D.C. and the images did not disappoint. They showed the classroom from a perspective we rarely get to see — from the seats of students.

Photo by Francesca Bello
/ Photo by Francesca Bello
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Photo by Francesca Bello
Photo by Eduardo Gross
/ Photo by Eduardo Gross
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Photo by Eduardo Gross
Photo by Francesca Bello
/ Photo by Francesca Bello
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Photo by Francesca Bello

There's something really wonderful, fun and honest about the photos — it makes us wish we were back in fourth grade. You can see more of their photos here.

And of course — the students captured us capturing them.

Photo by Patricia Quimby-Moro.
/ Photo by Patricia Quimby-Moro
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Photo by Patricia Quimby-Moro

Here's the final story:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Listen to the Story

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.