Belben - English

Welcome, Students!

I'll be your teacher this semester for Reading and Writing in the Media. In addition to being BEHS's librarian, I am also an English teacher this year, and I'm looking forward to sharing my experience as a library media speciialist, English teacher, and professional writer as we work together to explore the history of the mass media and its impact on our lives and culture.

My Background
I grew up in Bellingham and attended Bellingham High School. I graduated from Washington State University with a degree in English and education and minors in Spanish, psychology, and learning resources. I taught at Nooksack Valley High School for eight years before getting a job at BEHS. I've been here for 13 years, mostly as librarian, but I've also taught psychology and several English classes. I also took a year off to write for a (now cancelled) television show called Veronica Mars. It's a really fun show, and you can access it online via Netflix and some other places.

Who I Am When I'm Not a Teacher/LibrarianMs. Belben and Frida Bee Belben
I love teaching and being a librarian, and I also love the life I live outside of school as the hu-mom to a 105-pound Bernese Mountain Dog named Frida and a cranky cat named Andale. I live in Bellingham, where I spend much of my time doing art projects, sewing, reading, bicycling, and spending time with my roommates and other friends.

I am HUGE believer that physical fitness ought to be a top priority in any individual's life. It has been said that "our bodies are apt to be our biographies," and I live that belief every day. You will hear me talk about how important exercise is for our bodies AND our brains. Regular exercise keeps me--and it will keep you-- alert, happy, and it will increase blood flow to your brain, making you better able to think clearly, solve problems effectively, appreciate complex ideas, and learn new information and skills.

What I Believe
  • I believe our lives are precious and powerful. Everyday I wake up grateful for the life I lead and the opportunities available to me. EVERYDAY is a chance to learn, grow, think, play, help, laugh, and enjoy. I believe this is true of your life, too.
  • I believe that a person must decide what to be, and go be it. Focus your physical and mental energies of that goal all day, everyday. Build your life around that vision. Waiting around for approval or permission is just that—waiting. And waiting isn’t doing.
  • I believe that writing stuff down makes all the difference in the world. The process of maintaining a record of your daily exercise keeps you honest and helps you measure progress; keeping a log of the books you read creates a history of your reading achievement; making a list each day of the things you're grateful for writing stuff down makes all the difference in the world. Keep a record of the books you read. Maintain an exercise log so you'll know you're staying on track. Make a list each day of the things you're grateful for. Share notes of encouragement and gratitude with friends and family members.

Course Expectations

Reading and Writing in the Media

Course Outline and Syllabus

Ms. Cathy Belben

757-4074 ext. 3128

Welcome to Reading and Writing in the Media. This course is devoted to examining the various texts produced under the banner of the media while simultaneously producing your own. To this end, study of the following questions is essential.

  • How does writing for the media differ from other types of writing?
  • How do the media tell stories in a variety of ways?
  • What is the link between mass media and culture?
  • How do I discern bias or agenda in media?
  • What are the steps and challenges inherent in producing different types of media?
  • What is the media’s role?
  • Why are audience and purpose so important?
  • How do the media attempt to influence individuals?

Our semester will be divided into these units of study, each approximately three weeks long:

  • What are “the media”?
  • How Money Drives the Media: Advertising and Its Influence
  • Entertainment, Education, Evil, and Elegance: TV, Movies, and Culture
  • Spin vs. Substance: News, Newsmakers, and Newsmaking
  • The iEverything World: The Internet and the New Media
  • Tuning In and Rocking Out: Music as Media

Independent Reading

In addition to required texts, you must read one book that you are not reading for any other course. I’m not setting a requirement for page numbers, but you will need to read a book that is related to our study of the media (I will provide a list of titles for you to choose from) at or above your reading level (I will teach you how to do this), it must be more words than pictures, and it must be a continuous narrative (no question-and-answer books or books of lists). You will complete four writing assignments in which you respond to what you read. You’ll get two twenty minute reading sessions to read in class. You must have your book with you for these.


Writing both reflects and promotes thought. When we read, we will be writing about what we read—before, during, and after. Some of this writing will be more informal or conversational, and some will be formal, scholarly writing.

Journals: You will be writing in a daily journal that will be collected, read, and graded every two weeks. Please have a spiral notebook solely for this purpose that will kept in my room.


Every Friday will be Media Forum Day. Each student in class will be preparing one presentation of an item of interest from the media and their response to it. A complete overview of this will be presented later.

A few other remarks….

Hall passes: You get 4 passes for the semester. Anytime you ask to leave for a drink o’water, a bathroom break, etc., you must surrender a pass. Once they’re gone, you’ll have no more breaks. You may cash in unused passes at the end of the semester for 5 points each.

Late work: Will be accepted for only 2 days after due date. Each day an assignment is late, 20% of the points possible will automatically be deducted. You are responsible for seeing me about your late work.

Tardies: You may have two freebies. After that, they will be recorded in the attendance book and disciplinary action will be taken. You may also cash in a hall pass to excuse a tardy after your 2 freebies are used up.

Absences: You may make up work only after excused absences. You are responsible for contacting me about make-up work. I am very easy to find. I work in the big room on the first floor with all the books.

A note regarding technology: YOU are entirely responsible for saving assignments properly so they are not lost in the vast cybervoid. Buy disks or a USB drive and save everything you do for this class to a disk. Make a print copy of everything you do. Do not rely on the I-drive at school or any other computer hard drive to protect your work. Save. Save. Save. Save. Save. If you do not know how to do this, please ask. Losing an assignment due to technological difficulties will not be accepted as an excuse for late work.

Make-up Work

Tests and quizzes must be made up before or after school or during lunch. Assignments done in class are due one day after your return. Make-up work for multiple, consecutive absences must be discussed with me.

Extra Credit

Extra credit MIGHT be offered occasionally throughout the semester. I consider extra credit just that, extra. A gift, not a given. So I reserve the right to offer extra credit opportunities and to give points for them subjectively. In any case, extra credit will only be accepted if all other work is turned in—not as a replacement for a missing assignment.

Rules and Procedures

  1. All student behavior expectations outlined in your handbook will be upheld in this classroom. No exceptions. If you bring food, drink, or a cell phone into class, it will be added to my Secret Stash of Confiscated Items.
  2. Treat yourself and others with the utmost RESPECT.
  3. Raise your hand if you wish to speak. Refrain from talking when others are speaking.
  4. All final drafts must be word processed and saved on a file compatible with the school’s network. It is recommended that you type homework assignments.
  5. Please don’t wear your hat, sunglasses, or headphones in class. This is a school rule, but I think it’s worth a reminder.
  6. Tardiness will not be tolerated. You must be in your seat, quiet and with all necessary materials when the bell rings to be considered on time.
You will need your binder, journal, pen or pencil, computer disk/drive and your outside reading material with you each day.