Teaching is tough. Teaching video production is magic.
I truly believe this. I believe in it so much I learn magic tricks throughout the year in order to drive home the point that video production is magic and to remind myself that teaching video production is the highest form of magic. But this time of year, the magic has often fizzled out. The end of the semester is tough because of grades, the holidays, etc and finding the power to come in and do the “teacher dance” Eight to Ten hours a day becomes harder and harder. This year has been the toughest of my career. This year has been harder than my first. That’s right Seven years in and it’s harder than the October when I walked into a classroom with no teaching experience to a room filled with students who had not had a “real teacher” all school year. So I have had to really dig deep to find inspiration.
This year I have taken on a lot and they are all good things but I am feeling it as the semester winds down. In addition to my middle and high school classes, our program has partnered again with the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism Sports Media certificate program to produce weekly broadcasts. I am also dipping my toe in a completely virtual class in a neighboring county. So to say I am stretched and stressed at times is an understatement. With all of that in mind, I have never been happier in my job.
This year is different because I found something that I haven’t in years past. I have found an inspiration to teach more than just video production. I have decided to teach my students how to be more well rounded - how to read better, how to write their ideas more efficiently, and how to believe in themselves. I have found a passion to help the students learn that they can do things they never thought they could before.
This inspiration comes from talking with Two very different groups of students - my middle school students and the college seniors we work with from UGA. My middle school students are an amazing group. They are so young and passionate it’s refreshing. They tackle things my high school students are scared to. It wasn’t all roses when we started but I can’t deny that I look forward to working with them each week. Two weeks ago, I gave my middle school students the same assignment as I gave my high school students. The middle school students not only completed the assignment, three high school classes did not, they excelled at it. They created a 15 minute newscast complete with student produced interviews, relevant news stories, and pretty close to flawless execution. As the class ended, the day of the newscast, I asked the students to stop and sit for a minute and think about what they are feeling. “Excitement.” “Accomplishment.” “Successful.” I told them that is the magic feeling. The feeling you get when you know what went into the newscast that people will never know about or understand. I danced around using the words “you are experiencing a high” but that is what I wanted to tell them. As you will see below the middle school students in the first minute or so of the video are a ton of fun and have an insane amount of passion for creating.
I also found inspiration on the other end of the spectrum. I got to work with the UGA students a little more this year than last and found that their inability to accept the status quo was empowering. The students drove me crazy each week by asking for more and more. It was not a bad thing at all. If they hadn’t asked, I would not have found a way to make it happen. As I spoke about a couple of months ago, our football broadcasts have gone to amazing heights thanks to the college students. The students wanted instant replay and ask you may know, instant replay is expensive - unless you get creative, I got creative. The students wanted to do studio shows on the field so they could have access to players and coaches, I got creative. As you will see in the video below, our football setup was massive. It took 4 computers (Master Control, ATEM Control, Instant Replay, Graphics) to pull off the things the college students asked for. Set up, strike, and repack wasn’t a lot of fun each week but the product on the other end was great.
These are just two examples of inspirations that I have found this year but there are tons of inspiration opportunities in our classrooms. It may not be as dramatic as an entire middle school program that gets it but it exists. Finding your inspiration does require something of you - It requires you to be positive. This is hard to do sometimes because we get so caught up in the hustle. As you head into the holiday season, make sure you stop down long enough in the next couple of weeks to find your inspiration - doing so may help you ease into the holiday break and enjoy your time away from the classroom better.
Next month, I am going to share my thoughts on fundraising and finding sustainable funding for your program.
Tom White is a video production teacher at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers. GA. Tom is also the director of the Sports Broadcast Institute, which is One of Five Georgia Governor’s Innovation in Education award winning programs and the NFHS Network Best Overall Program. The Sports Broadcast Institute works to produce live broadcasts, newscasts, sports documentaries and more for the Three schools, Rockdale Co, Salem, and Heritage High schools, that the career academy serves. Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.