New Kid in School: I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

I told someone earlier today that I seem to find something every day that I need or want access to but I can’t.

Almost a month in, I still don’t know what I don’t know. Learning to be a new teacher again is tough. I don’t remember not knowing anything when I started teaching but that may be a result of me truly NOT knowing anything.

I have sat through meetings that reminded me of the time when I managed the hispanic radio stations for a couple of months. Catching every 4th or 5th word and trying to piece together what each word means. It’s funny how schools seems to each have their own language.NewKid01

I have to say that one of the biggest things I was concerned about was the technology. I left a pretty large school system in the Metro Atlanta area to go to a school that is best described as rural. I mean, I drive 40 minutes AWAY from Atlanta to get there but I was assured that the technology was taken care of. Boy were they right. I sat down a week or so ago to broadcast a volleyball match. I whipped open the laptop, went to speedtest.net and hit “go.” 30 seconds later I was looking at 100MBPS down and over 100MBPS up! I immediately emailed the director of IT for the county and thanked him! I have done a lot of broadcasts in a lot of gyms and never had such great speeds on a wireless connection. I would like to say that the broadcast when off without a hitch but an excited 4th grader celebrating a point late in the deciding set knocked me offline by swinging her arm and unplugging my HDMI connection for my camera….just as the serve for the match point was served.

In the classroom, things are starting to shape up. The video production class is producing a daily 3 to 5 minute newscast. This has been the best yet most stressful thing I have done. As you know, there are students who really care and want to be there and students who would rather be anywhere else (as long as they have access to snapchat). I think I may have found the recipe to keep those who are (or could be) interested involved and excited about the class while we progress. I have split the class in half and these groups alternate days of producing the newscast. On their “non-producing” days, they plan for the show the next day. All students every day have to write a 30 second news script. So the class breaks down with the first 20 minutes or so the students researching and writing scripts, the next 30 or so working to complete the rundown or plan the next day’s show, and finally the remaining time, they actually produce the show. It’s a complex dance and the overachievers need a little more pushing to stay engaged but next week, things will change. Today, all of my students got access to the Adobe Creative Cloud! Bring on the editing and the challenges to make something better every day!

NewKid02As I mentioned earlier, we have started to produce live sportscasts. This has been extremely rewarding and some days a major motivating factor in my day. The students are starting to warm up to the idea of doing live broadcasts. The first responses where “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I’m afraid to mess up.” Each week, I send an email with the opportunities for the week. Each week more students sign up. I had my first show with a student working as play by play for the game. It was amazing! He knew the game so I didn’t have to coach much. This was the first time we used the Henry Engineering Sportscaster set up. We were able to communicate offlline as well as on the air. The Sportscaster made the setup extremely easy and worked like a charm.

We are working through football season right now too. We did our first live show last Friday. We have partnered with the Sports Media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism. The students work as the talent for our shows. We set up two cameras on the roof along with our production area. I wrestled with finding a wireless microphone that would get us access to the field reporter that was stable enough to go to throughout the game. I’m still working on it…. I did have a major win this week when I received a Connex Mini from Camera Motion Research. This will allow me to cover the entire stadium area with a wireless camera. I will be using the camera with a wireless microphone set up (when I get one) in order to have a sideline reporter anywhere which will be especially important when we go on the road and need to be on the opposite side of the field from the pressbox.

Between the sportscasts, the newscasts, the normal day to day grind of the classroom, I am ready for the Labor Day 3 day weekend. I know that the month of September is going to be crazy as we ramp up all of the sports and prepare for the move into the new facility. There is an auction company that will be scouring the building and if the correct label isn’t placed on the right boxes, equipment, etc…. We may be buying back some of our stuff in the auction.

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Tom White is the digital media instructor at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA. Currently teaching TV production and animation pathways, Tom's programs have received state and national honors including the 2016 NFHS Network School Broadcast Program Of The Year. 

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.