January is a time for renewal.
A A time to look forward to what you want to do and what you need to do. January is a time for some to get new students and others to find a way to stomach the students who they just received a 2 week break from.
This January for me is 3 new classes of students, two new topics, and new opportunities. I am super excited about the new students. I have already done my research so I kind of know what I am getting myself into. I have also had someone else look over my roster to make sure that I don’t have a repeat of last semester with the class that rocked my confidence to the core (more on them later). I am beyond excited for the next semester and the challenges.
As I write this I am very anxious though. I received my new program equipment throughout the month of December. I literally received a shipment of boxes every day for 3 weeks. I must say that there is a photo/video company that has some very suspect shipping methods. One of the best examples is the ceiling light mounts. I purchased 15 mounts. Eleven of the mounts came in one box and there was room for probably 30 more. The next day, in the same sized box, another shipment of 4 was delivered. Also, each order contained a list for the entire order - 12+ pages each. Some of the shipments had 2 or 3 order lists in them. I was swimming in paperwork. Needless to say, I made sure that my custodian received a little extra from me before I left for the holidays. He dealt with all of the boxes, packing supplies, torn papers, and more each day.
Though there was one case that made me laugh. I ordered a ton of tripods. If you have taught video production for more than 6 weeks, you know that students are terrors when it comes to tripods. For our studio, I bought some very high capacity tripods to hold our cameras and teleprompters. For the students who are going to run and gun a little more I bought some Manfrotto BeFree tripods. The comedy came when I stacked the box of 6 tripods next to the box of just the tripod head for our studio tripods…One box has 6 tripods the other has the head for one tripod.
As I have mentioned several times this school year, I am learning how to teach a new pathway. For the last 8 years, I have taught tv/video production. This year is my first teaching animation classes. I feel like I know what I am doing when it comes to animation. I actually learned to edit video using After Effects. I did all of my editing the first couple of years SOLELY in After Effects. Imagine my anger at the time I wasted not knowing how to use Premiere Pro. That said, how to teach animation has been a challenge for me. I have tried to stick to the standards as best I can but I have to admit that I don’t like the standards - specifically for the Intro To Digital Media class. No intro class should cover 3d modeling… but that’s my opinion. In talking with my director, she has given me the freedom to do what is best. That said, the intro to digital media course will be more than animation and will actually be a introduction to media that is found in the digital form. The students will cover everything from basic photography (DSLR and Mobile Device Cameras), photo composition (Photoshop), basic movie production (Premiere Pro), audio production (Audition), and basic animation (After Effects). Changing the focus of this course will not only better prepare students to understand the digital media world but will also help me to determine if students should pursue the animation pathway or if they are really more suited for TV/Film production.
One of the things I am also a little nervous about is having a co-teacher for the first time in my career. During one of my periods, I may have 2 additional adults in the classroom with me full time. I have one student who has a fulltime parapro and another has been assigned due to the caseload in my classroom. I am super blessed to be in a system that provides this support for the students. I am actually excited to see the outcome of having an additional set of eyes and hands to help but at the same time, I have never had another adult in my classroom more than 1 period at a time so this will be an interesting ride.
“I just realized we have already played 14 games…” was the last text I received from our boys basketball coach. This means we have about 10 games left to play in the regular season. Our basketball teams have played in 3 states so far this season, hosted a holiday tournament, and at the time of writing both are ranked 1st in their classification. We have been busy. I have not built the student production team that I wanted but I have leveraged some pretty awesome technology to take some of the weight off of me. We are working hard to get ready for the spring sports season. I have already talked with the soccer teams as well as baseball and the overall consensus has been the same: Do whatever you want. I know that a lot of you don’t get that freedom but I do want to say that I have been very upfront with what I want to do from the moment I set foot on campus so the expectation has been set so it was no surprise when I asked. I have some pretty exciting things that I plan to do with both soccer and baseball including working more automated sports production into my plan - specifically on the soccer field. (See my article about Pixellot in this issue for more info on what we have done with basketball).
I have really enjoyed my break. I spent a lot of time with my family and a lot of time in the kitchen (including the bacon wrapped, apple stuffed smoked pork loin that I rang in the new year with - photo to the right) but tomorrow I report for 1 teacher work day before the students arrive. During the workday, we have an 8:30 to 11:30 meeting, faculty lunch at 11:30, then a meeting from 1:30 to 3:30 so I will be doing some work to prepare for the students arrive on Monday but I am ready. The curriculum has been updated, the lessons, have been planned but to be honest, I am not really ready for the kids to come on Monday but just like I have always done… I will make it (and you will too).
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.