This Summer Invest in Yourself

Some people think summer means sand, sun, and friends.

I am not a fan of sand. My Irish heritage and girth makes the sun an eternal enemy and when it comes to friends….I can’t think of a play on that other than I do get to enjoy a good bit of time with my friends and more importantly family. Summer for me means investing in myself.

I am less than 24 hours from the last day of school and I am already in what educators call “professional development.” That phrase has always bothered me. It has such negative connotations. I know where they come from – the hours of “meetings” disguised as trainings. Too often the meetings are just a way for a local “educational leader” to promote the book they just read or an area that is lacking or worse to simple check off a box that covers the prescribed number of “professional development” sessions offered by the school or system. I once again have to admit that I am blessed to have the administration that I have because they understand that professional development for us (video production teachers) doesn’t look like post it notes and tennis balls. It looks more like what professionals do to develop themselves.

Over the next 8 days, I will spend 6 investing in myself in professional development like the pros. I will spend my time networking, learning, and making connections that will last for a long time and have a much greater impact on my classroom than any half day session on assessments and scoring assignments.SM01

There are two events that I will attend within 10 days of the end of the school year that really push me to be a better teacher the following year. First is the Sports Video Group’s (sportsvideo.org) College Sports Summit. I have attended this event 3 years and each year it becomes more and more clear the impact that it has on my classroom. I originally attended to see what the colleges were doing for sports production as I was building the curriculum of the Sports Broadcast Institute. Prior to teaching, I was a marketing/promotions director for Clear Channel Radio (now Iheart Media) in Greensboro, NC and Atlanta. I experienced things that people only dream about. I summed up my life as “I complain about things people dream about.” I have never been one to be star struck but upon entering the College Sports Summit the first year, I certainly became star struck and intimidated. Now 3 years in, I have made some great friends who help my program tremendously throughout the year.

I originally thought the event was way out of my league but I quickly learned during the first session I attended that we all have the same struggles – it’s just that the colleges, universities, and conferences have 5 or 6 more zeroes in their budget than I do. At the end of the day, a lot of the major programs throughout the country use student staffs to help produce their content. There are several schools that their video content is not a class, major, or program but instead is a club where students volunteer to produce the products. Knowing that the University of Alabama struggles with student crews showing up on time, not playing with their phones, and all of the other obstacles we face with our students is more than refreshing it is empowering. I worried that the universities and industry reps would be put off by a “high school” teacher in their midst but the reaction has been very different. There have been a lot of questions about what I teach, how we teach, and IF we do live productions.

After attending the first year, I told several teachers about the event and Andy Powell from South Effingham High School near Savannah, Georgia decided to attend last year as well as the event this year. I asked Andy why he came to the event this year despite a hectic family schedule and other professional development plans for the following 3 weeks. He echoed my sentiments about the colleges, et. Al having the same problems but more importantly he told of an interaction with a microphone manufacturer. The night before Andy spoke with a microphone manufacturer who makes the microphones used to produce the mic’d up features for the NBA. In the conversation, Andy learned that all NBA jerseys have a pocket sewn into them for the placement of this microphone. Andy remarked “I can tell stories all day long about what I experience but when I share something SM02like this it captivates my students. There may be half the room that will listen now because they know the relationship.” This is why an event like this, where we are out of our league, is so important. If Andy had not come, he would not have had one more nugget of wisdom to share with his students to hopefully bridge the gap for a student. I am extremely grateful to Brandon Costa and the rest of the SVG folks for putting the event together and welcoming me with open arms.

Next week, I will attend an event called Camp T&I (Trade and Industry) in Brunswick, Georgia. This event is the example and model of what professional development in education should be. The concept is so simple it is cliché. Professional development requested by teachers and presented by teachers and industry professionals. There will be around 50 teachers from around the state of Georgia convening for 2.5 days of sharing ideas, stories, wins, and losses as well as working together to produce content just like we ask our students to do. This event is more of a family reunion than professional development. Hosted at the Golden Isles Career Academy and facilitated by the GICA production teacher, Kevin Pullen, the event is an amazing example of teachers gathering to share their passions for teaching and video production. The key to Camp T&I is the fact that the teachers don’t hold back. They give their all and share without no prejudice about someone “stealing” an idea.

These two events really shape my year because of the inspiration I gather from the other teachers at Camp T&I and the information I garner from the College Video Summit. While I know the end of the school year is certainly a time that most want to separate from training and learning, I highly encourage you to take some time to invest in yourself but making sure you find a way to get inspired by other teachers and get information about what’s around the corner for our industry. And in the words of Lee Fitting from ESPN during his conversation at the College Video Summit “ Push Yourself. Push your show. Push your talent…Don’t be afraid to do something differently.”


TomWhiteHeadshot 175Tom 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.