July 1 is not only a big day for Bobby Bonilla but I get to celebrate July as the start of year two at Morgan County High School.
I guess I am supposed to turn in my new kid card (It really exists- see the photo below) but I’m going to hang on to it for a while longer. This month is a look back at the year and laughing at the mistakes, celebrating wins and a ton of thank yous.
I was talking with several other teachers near the end of the school year and we all shared that we didn’t remember the old building. You may remember that in August when I started I was in a conference room with a peephole into a supply room that had a camera, Tricaster, and a green screen. I had no storage and very little equipment.
The first semester was hard. It was by far the hardest semester of my career. Not only getting familiar with the traditions and customs of the new school but also getting used to a new schedule (4x4 block), new expectations (daily announcement show), and of course new students. As the new teacher with the new program, I got a lot of “that sounds like fun” students. I got so many of those that I actually went to my principal one afternoon and told her “I know I can teach but this class has me on the ropes.” As we discussed it, she pulled up the roster for this class in particular and giggles and states “You lost a bet.” The class was a mix of seniors and freshman. I had two couples and enough personalities to build a great reality tv show. It took a while and by the time I was done with them in December, we were all on great terms.
We moved into the new building over our October break. (In Georgia, we get a week break about every 8 to 9 weeks of the year.) That was a good thing because I can’t imagine trying to move in and get set up with the students in the building. My room wasn’t ideal for video production but I knew that going in. The program was sort of an afterthought. About 12 feet was taken from the art classroom, and the same from the media center, to create my classroom and studio respectively. While it’s small and doesn’t have a storage closet, it does have cabinets all the way around the room so I can make do.
I have to say that in terms of the classroom; it is a great set up. I can see all of the student’s computers, everything in my room is mobile, and most importantly, it’s clean and new! The studio has come a long way since October. I have done some sound reinforcement. The room was just cinder blocks so I added a ton of sound baffle. It sounds pretty good. Not recording studio good but better than we actually need. The studio has been outfitted with 2 cameras with Bird Dog NDI Converters. I went with Bird Dog in the studio because I have plenty of internet drops. I have three Newtek Spark Connects for our remote shots since they are wifi capable and I have the battery packs for them. If there is one thing that I have learned this year is to go ahead and embrace NDI. It’s the future, it’s inexpensive, and it’s extremely powerful!
One of the biggest things about changing schools to come to Morgan County was that sports teams. I have been teaching for close to 10 years and worked with three traditional schools concurrently and never been at a school that won a state championship. This year at Morgan County, we won two and were in the running for many more. With sports comes live broadcasts, if you are a video teacher. This year, we produced over 125 live sports event and countless highlight packages, news reports, interviews, and more. This would not have been possible without a strong supporting administration, partners like the University of Georgia Grady School of Journalism, Hank Landsberg from Henry Engineering, Tom Whitfield and Daniel Bolton, Andy and Andrew from Teradek, the NFHS Network (most definitely Tony from support), and of course the students and parents who helped produce the games, watched the games, and shared our social media posts and accepted MCHSLive.com as a part of the community immediately.
We did a ton of really cool things. Invented new segments - Word On The Street Wednesday being the most memorable. We had some failures (The Tiger Wood vs. Santa Clause Joke that somehow made it through my review of the script). Overall though, I would say that the first year of the program was more than a success. We won NFHS Network Best New Program and Highlight of the year but more importantly to me was that we won the hearts, minds, and imaginations of a new batch of students who had never experienced a video production class that pushed them to their limits, challenged them to be better, and more importantly made them better in the areas that count the most - reading, writing, communication, and self-confidence.
I was asked a couple of weeks ago in a newspaper interview, “what’s next?” To be honest, I don’t know. I just hope it isn’t a sophomore slump…
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.