Accepting Reality

Without doing a personality test on all of the teachers in the world and by diving headlong into a generalization, I make the following statement with all of the confidence in the world:

Teachers are Type A personalities. And with that nugget of wisdom, I am sure you are asking for the previous 5 seconds of your life back but I make that statement with a purpose. Sometimes we need to step back and look at what we have and compare that with what we think we have.

Last night I texted John Churchman, publisher for SVN, and told him that “I have never been so behind and unprepared.” I didn’t include this but this includes the first day I taught 6 years ago. This year (the first 6 days) has been tough. I am a habitual planner. I usually have a curriculum map and lesson plans for the school year completed in the spring before the school year. This year has been different. I had a plan for my two “normal” classes but this year, I have added a middle school class and a class that I am teaching via our virtual campus. The stress of the unknown related to those two classes has literally put me in a lock down when it comes to getting work done.

All of these factors have caused me to step back and look at where my program is and what I need to do to make perception meet reality. Last year was a bad year. I had over 30 student fail out of the program.* Like most programs we have to recruit students in order to fill the seats and losing 30 students who were scheduled to go into 2nd and 3rd year classes hurt the entire program. The absence of experienced students has hurt in more areas that my seats in the classroom. I had a conversation with one of our football coaches last weekend where I had to break it to him that I may not be able to help him with coaching footage this year because I don’t have students who are ready for that task. As I write this, I am looking over rosters to find students who may be able to run cameras for our game of the week broadcast and making a note of new potential sponsors.

So in the vein of accepting reality, I wanted to share our plan for this year as we transition to an entirely new operations model.

The first major change this year as I alluded to earlier is a change in the classroom plan. Our program has two video production teachers, myself and Jessica McLaughlin. We have been blessed to add Jessica this year and allow her to focus on film production while I get to focus solely on news and sports production. My move into the new room and all of the hassles related to that allow me to have access to multiple studios and Five production rooms where students will edit footage, etc. The main area in the classroom will be used for lecture and meetings.

The next major change was to go from a program that developed small pieces to focus on true news show production. Each Friday, we will produce 3 different newscasts - middle school news, school news from around the county, and a sports based newscast. This has been a big change for my advanced students because they are accustomed to using all of their class time to work on their projects. They are now losing every other Friday and a good part of each Wednesday as they prepare for the newscasts. Surprisingly, the middle school students have been the most adaptive. They jumped right in and got going. We are going to start their live newscasts about 2 weeks earlier than the high schools. My plan for the Sports Production students is to ramp them into doing a weekly news show during first semester and second semester make it a daily show.

I have already laid the foundation for the daily show with the students having to compose a 30 second script each day prior to class. The end goals of the daily script are numerous including forcing the students to consume sports news at least every other day. I have learned that the students know about sports but do not consume the news. I equate it to a saying from when I was a kid: “You hear but you don’t listen.” (I heard that a lot.) The students see the sports but they aren’t getting to truly know the sports and the journalistic elements needed to help tell the story. The grading of the scripts is going to be a pain in the chair warmer but I do believe it will be worth it.

At the end of last school year, I was burned out. I was tired of fighting students to work. I was tired of fighting with parents to help them see that just giving a grade because the student “tried” was not an option. I was just tired. The previous 3 years we averaged over 400 live broadcasts. Last year was an off year with only 250 but they were a hard 250. As a part of the Sports Broadcast Institute, students had to work on 2 live broadcasts each semester. This was a BAD IDEA! I had 3 groups of people. First the students that wanted to do live broadcasts - whom I hired. Second, those that did it just because it was a grade - who were terrible to work with. Third, those that signed up because I called them out for not signing up but didn’t show. I LOATHED that bunch. (Though they did help me find and use some really awesome equipment: http://schoolvideonews.com/Company-Profiles/Product-Review-MultiCamZilla) So this year we made the change to doing a game of the week broadcast. Instead of producing up to 20 games a week, we are now going to produce no more than 2. This is going to help a ton with my patience with the students, my development of those that I actually hire, and the quality of the broadcasts.

All in all, I look back at the last year as a major step in growing the program. I look at it as weeding the garden and getting ready for a new crop. I know without a doubt that the students that take advantage of my program will be as successful as they want to be because they know how to work, read, write, and produce and that is my only goal as a teacher.


*Before you start to judge about my “allowing” 30 students to fail, please understand that I did everything within my power, short of looking the other way or doing the work for the student, to help them complete the course. I kid you not when I say that I had to give a student points on his final project because the gradebook does not recognize a 0.

TomWhiteHeadshot 175


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.