My first students arrived at 7:55am on Wednesday, August 1st and class started at 8:00am. I have spent the last 3 months working to get to this point. I am nervously excited. All of the students showed up, took an index card and wrote their name on it, and are now waiting on me to start pouring years of knowledge and experience into them. I grab the back of the chair at my desk to slide it out of the way so I have my presentation space and…boom… the chair falls over. As I fumble to pick it up, the back of the chair comes completely off the base. Heck of a start to a new legacy at a new school.
For the last week, I have fumbled through meetings, awkward introductions, forgetting people’s names and not knowing what anyone does but it has been great because I have certainly felt welcome. The new school has me placed in an old space as we prepare to move into a new building in October. I’m not sure what the room was used for before I got here but everyone that walks by comments that they either didn’t know this room existed or that they have never seen it look so good. I take both as a compliment as I have already made my mark by making a room appear that people didn’t know existed or by making a room a temporary home for my students.
As for content, the first couple of weeks for me are always like a bad date. I really want to get to know the kids as quickly as possible but they are still shy and withhold so much. Day 1 is all about getting the kids to the right place at the right time and get them back to the right place in one piece with a lunch break for everyone involved in the middle somewhere. The first thing I have the students do is write their name on an index card. Usually with one or two exceptions, the students write their name in the top right or top left corner of the card. I explain educational indoctrination to them and that this class is not like the others. They are going to think about things differently. I am going to do things differently. Together we are going to do things that matter and make some waves. I believe giving the students the vision straight out of the gate is the most important thing I can do. I sell them on the idea that their work will not die in my gradebook and that it will be used or shown somewhere.
A new venture for me will be the daily announcements show. I have never had to do anything daily with the students but I have been envious of those who have because those seem to be the stronger programs throughout the country. The first request I had for my administration was to move the morning announcements to the afternoon. I had a list of good reasons - not the least of which is that my tv production class in second semester will be during the 3rd of 4 periods so we would have to plan to record the day before or have to come up with another plan to get the shows done.
One of the challenges this year outside of the new school is that my new school will have a new school in October. I have had a ton of trouble with what to do in the time between the start of school and the new facility. I have come up with a plan that I think will work but time will tell. I did have to order several things as I prepared for the school year that could not wait. One of which was my live broadcast setup. I already have a pretty good cadre of cameras but I did not have a switcher, etc. While I wait until we get into the new building I ordered a relatively small road kit for our football broadcasts. I ordered the BlackMagic Design Atem Television Studio HD to use as my switcher as I am trying to keep as small of a footprint as possible while giving my broadcasts some room to grown. I also order the BMD Web Presenter with the Teranex faceplate. The Web Presenter was a no brainer for me. I wanted something simple to operate that I could use both SDI or HDMI signal that I could rack mount. The Web Presenter and Atem Television Studio HD take up less than 1RU and will give you the ability to mix several cameras as well as get that signal out to the camera/streaming device of choice.
I will also receive my first shipment on Friday to the new school (even before my BMD gear arrives) and to say I am excited about Henry Engineering’s Sportscaster is more than an understatement. Hank and I have talked about this product for 6 or 8 months now and they are now available for purchase. The Sportscaster is an all in one audio device that pairs with the Sportspod and is a game changer. I have written about it a couple of times and once I get mine and use it - I will write about it again. It is a game changer.
Now that I have the equipment on the way, I have to work on getting the right kids to make our broadcast program grow. I admit this is one of the things I am most nervous about. I have such high expectations for our broadcasts because of the history that I’ve had so I have several times had to reset my expectations. The last football broadcast we did had 5 cameras, instant replay, play by play, color, up to the snap stats, and a live pregame and post game show. The next broadcast I am going will hopefully have 2 cameras, play by play, and graphics. I am excited to say though that I had a young lady drop by a moment ago who I worked with last year who essentially said “I will do everything I can!” so I have student! If I have 3 more, I will be more than happy.
As for what’s next, our softball season starts within the next 5 days so I am going to take my one student and we are going to do a softball game and market it like it’s the next sliced bread. She will be praised like she cured a disease and I hope students will clamor for the opportunity. I have a great plan for managing the team and a plan for the broadcasts so I am ready to go!
Next month, we’ll look back at the first month as well as look forward to the move to the new building as well as some of the equipment as we start to get everything ready to go!
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.