I wrestled a long time with what to write for this month.
I feel like I have covered basketball as we closed out last year. I have made sure we take care of those (our students) that take care of us. I really wanted to stay away from “Best of” list. I really, really wanted to stay away from resolutions. But then inspiration struck, I will do an article about resolutions and I will do a super cheesy Christmas sweater of an article about resolutions! So like my willpower during the holidays… away we go.
As a video teacher, I have trouble explaining two things to my students: the difference between a Trillion dollars and a Million dollars and the differences between video resolutions. While I have found great resources on the first dilemma (This is by far the best to help visualize: http://www.pagetutor.com/trillion/index.html), I have not found a great way to teach resolution difference. So in keeping with the Christmas Sweater of an article theme, here are my 2017 resolutions.
My 4k resolution is the biggest and most easily defined. For so many years, my program has been about doing as many shoots as possible under the guise of “giving students more opportunities to learn.” As I look back on the last several years, I realize that most of those students didn’t learn much more than they weren’t cut out for a sports video production career.
This has never been so clear as this year when I had a student who is a great shooter come to me and tell me he was not going to stay in the program. I talked with him and told him we would make it through the next semester and go from there. He said to me “no. I am dropping the class today. This period is now a free period for me. Video production is not my thing.” So not only did I lose a great shooter for our broadcasts - I lost a great student and a great deal of confidence in myself and methods.
So my Ultra Hi Definition resolution for 2017 is to focus more on the quality of the learning experience over the quantity of learning experiences. Our focus this year will be to produce more high-end broadcasts and focus on teaching students exactly what they want to “be when they grow up.” Instead of simply cranking out broadcasts for the sake of adding dates on the calendar, we will hyper-focus our plans to find the best events to broadcast in the best ways possible. The plan is simple, find the students that want to get really good at broadcasting and help to make them really good at what they want to do. I have a ton of students that want to be in the industry and this will help to put them in a better place for their next step.
Like one of my mother’s fruitcakes, my 1080i resolution is what I am most excited about this year: I will take on a new challenge. I will be not only teaching video production but this year, I will have a true sports journalism course. This is going to be an exciting way for me to interlace video production with journalism. For those that don’t know, I teach at a public charter school and our CEO (principal in other schools) asked us to get creative and think of something you would like to offer the students that you are passionate about and that your students would benefit from. One of the areas that our entire state struggles with is reading. My plan is to force the students to read and prove comprehension by creating an environment where they will read and write about the one thing that most of my students are passionate about - sports. The plan is that students will work to meet a daily deadline - either a live newscast or a print/web deadline. The assignments will range from writing stories for the sports based newscast, creating advances for upcoming games, producing gamers while at games, and analysis pieces post-game. I will also spike in article reviews and opinion pieces. The students will also work on photojournalism and a little video production.
I am excited about this class because I love a challenge and can’t wait to see the growth that I know will come from this program. I really worry about my students and their reading, comprehension, and writing so this course will help me sleep better at night knowing that I at least made a true effort to put them in a better position. It is one thing to teach them to be great videographers but if they aren’t equipped with the basic communication tools, they have been done a disservice. (I feel like I should have made a comment about a lump of coal or the grinch but I refrained due to the nature of the topic).
My progressive resolution is to start at the top to create high definition students. I resolve to create better assignments, assessments, and communications with my students. This will happen by using several things that I have already set in place. First, I will make sure to push my students work to the highest level while remembering that I am not the only game in town and they have other responsibilities. (but I won’t waiver on deadlines and quality expectations). When it comes to assessments, clearly defined rubrics and project descriptions will help to set the high standards as well as help to detail my expectations. Communication is the weakest part of my role as a teacher. Both with students and parents, I don’t communicate the way I should. I have used an awesome site, Videonot.es, to give my students feedback on their work. It’s great! You simply have the student upload their work to youtube and copy that link into the videonot.es site. Then you review the video in the videonot.es site and make comments. The comments are timed to the video. When you are done, you can share the notes link just as you would anything else in Google drive. This has been a great tool for me when I have used it this year but will become a standard for me moving forward. Also I plan to use remind.com to communicate with my students and parents better. I plan schedule messages about games to broadcast, due dates, special events, and more. This is really simple and hits the students right where they are. I tried using email for a long time but that isn’t as effective as a text message.
Good old 720p… Whatever would we be without the little brother to the “true” high definition resolution. My 720 resolution is to stay true to my goals despite other definitions of success. Too often I find myself trying to be something that we aren’t. Some days I wish to create a program like John Souders in Cleveland, TN or Omar Delgado at Christopher Columbus in Miami or Tracy Misner at Alpharetta High School in Atlanta or seemingly every school in Hawaii. I resolve to keep the focus on the program that we have set up here and to make it a launching pad for my student’s career opposed to making it an ornament on the Christmas tree of my career.
This goal will be tough as I like to see what everyone else is doing and taking ideas and inspiration from what they are doing. I will get inspiration from these schools and their leaders and students but I resolve to simply be inspired by their programs and not driven to want to compete with their programs. In keeping with the theme, the difference between a 1080 program and a 720 program is minimal and honestly, most people can’t tell the difference.
One of my weaknesses throughout my entire career has been sharing my expectations with others. I have wrongly assumed for many years that those that I work with know my expectations. My personal philosophy has been to “win everything.” When I was in radio, I had a dry erase board in my office that listed our events and it was the “We Win” board. I have always thought everyone had the same philosophy… then I started teaching high school.
I resolve to define my standards to all of my students more clearly. These standards are for myself, for them, and for the community we serve. I have high standards. My mother refuses to work with me because of those standards and she prays for my wife everyday as well. (My mother and I worked together for a while doing live production for our church when I was the production director. We have since rectified our differences.) My standards are simple: Do the best you can to exceed everyone’s expectations every time. We look at brands like Disney, Apple, Rolls Royce, and the like and wonder why they are successful. It’s their standards. If you want to compete in that world or have a brand recognized at that level, you have to set your standard as excellence. Notice I didn’t say perfection. Perfection is impossible. Period. There is no such thing as a perfect broadcast or perfect video. There is always something that can be improved. If your goal is perfection, you will fail but if excellence is your focus, you will be successful. Standard Definition (see what I did there??) is not only going to help you but also help your students.
What would a play on resolutions be without including our good friend PAL. PAL was developed to solve an engineering and physics problem. PAL came from the persistence to fix a problem. That is often what we have to do with our students and our situations, we have to be persistent. Persistence is what will get us over the hump with a difficult student. Persistence will help us to deal with the administrator that drives us nuts; not that I have any of those. The hard part of persistence is that a lot of people don’t understand it. They see it as annoying when we continue to call to try to get an internship placement for a student. They see it as pushy when we call to see if they want to sponsor our program. They don’t understand when we try so hard to reach a student only to have our heart broken by that students. Persistence just like PAL is not for everyone.
Wrapping this article like a last second gift, I ask that you forgive me for the Christmas Sweater of an article and that you remember why you do what you do. No one ever started teaching for the fame or fortune but instead I hope you started teaching to make a difference. Our job is, in my humblest opinion, the greatest job in the world. We have the opportunity to not only impact, inspire, and change a child but in doing so change a generation.
I hope your holidays were great but more importantly I hope you are great as you head into this next calendar year as a teacher.
The photo used for this article has nothing to do with the actual article other than to remind me to take care of the things that are most important to me as a teacher.
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.