Writing

Not a Waste of Time

As my last class of the day ended, a student of mine informed me that one of her academic teachers did not like my class. The woman’s words were, “That class is just a waste of time.”


I’m not going to lie; many snarky comments ran through my mind, and then I remembered that I teach middle school and what I say affects them. So my only response was, “that’s unfortunate.” What was truly unfortunate, aside from this woman’s thoughts towards my class, was that I’ve never had a negative interaction with her. I’ve never said anything bad about her, yet she was still trash-talking my class to the middle school students.


How wonderful is that?


What is even more unfortunate, outside a trash-talking adult, was that this adult was putting down the student. The student was discussing the upcoming project when the teacher decided to share her opinion.


After digesting my frustration, I stopped to think for a moment. I don’t believe this person understands everything my class has to offer. It’s not just a place for students to learn technical skills that can be used in a future career. It is a chance for them to express themselves where they most certainly would not have the opportunity to do so in an academic classroom.


First and foremost, video editing is no longer isolated to the broadcast world. When I was looking to switch careers, nearly all job postings asked for basic video editing skills. The main reason for this has to do with social media. Almost all companies now use social media to promote themselves. Employers are looking for people who understand design to drive business to their social media accounts, websites, or even better, their front door. So if I can instill a basic understanding of graphic design and video production into my students at a young age, I am giving them an extra building block they will need in their adult life.


If we look beyond the technical aspect of my class and at what else there is to offer, you will see how vital the arts are to all students—especially those at the middle school level where they are trying to discover themselves.


When I started at this school, I was warned not to expect much from my students. They are young, and they probably won’t be able to handle everything I expected them to do. I listened. I assessed, and I decided that everyone was completely wrong. If we constantly tell our students they can’t do something or are too young to do it, they won’t be able to do it. But if we push them and give them the tools to climb the ladder, these kids have no clue that they “shouldn’t be able to do it.”


I have a group of 11-13-year-olds shooting live to tape news productions. I spent two weeks with them, teaching them how to use the Tricaster, line producer (basic line producing but still pretty hard), along with every other job in the control room and those in the studio.


Do they mess up?

Heck yes, they do.

But do they give up?

No.

It’s not in their vocabulary.



At the beginning of the year, I had a parent who wanted to pull her daughter from my program because she was scared her daughter wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. I expressed to my guidance counselor that that particular student was fully capable of doing everything in my class. The only reason she had issues last year was she didn’t log into class until it was a quarter over and didn’t want to do the work. Five weeks into the school year, I knew if I needed to send out a student to get a news story or collect footage for a project, her hand would be one of the first to go up. She is now interested in either line producing or technical directing—two of the most challenging jobs outside of reading the newscast.


This student wasn’t my only shy student. Nearly all my classes have a handful of those who don’t want to be on camera. I get that sentiment. I hate being on camera. It’s why I’ve spent my career behind the scenes. However, I do not let my students hide. They are allowed to work through their anxieties, but they cannot succumb to their fears.


Last year, one of my strongest anchors was a boy who refused to turn on his camera at the beginning of the year. When he returned to school, he was very shy, so I tasked him with being my floor director. That meant he had to speak up and relay the messages from the control room to those in the studio. It may not have been his words, but he was finding his voice. About a month into it, one of my anchors was absent, and he asked if he could anchor. I very enthusiastically said yes. Every single student in the class was in shock. Students who had grown up with him said he barely talked. Let me tell you, that was no longer the case. His other teachers said they saw a boost in confidence that wasn’t there in his prior two years at the school.


Confidence.


Confidence is probably one of the most beneficial life-changing things that a student could take away from my program. Students gain confidence from failing while growing from their failures. I have students of all academic levels, from honor students to high functioning ESE. I hold them all to the same standards. Though I do not expect the same level of work, I expect them all to try their hardest and execute their best. Not everyone’s best will be the same. Thankfully, since I am not a core class, I know that I’m not forced to reach specific standards or pressured by a statewide test, and I have the chance to pause and work with my students.
This year my T.V. One students will be creating a 2-3 minute silent film that they have written. They will create a travel promotional project that expands their knowledge of different cultures and places worldwide. They will be making a text-based informational video about one of our 50 states, teaching themselves and classmates interesting facts they didn’t know before. The last project they will be creating is a 5 minute documentary on a topic of their choice. In making their documentary, the students learn how to research, analyze facts, and present a compelling narrative with the least bias possible.


But you know this class is a waste of time.


My second and third-year tv students are writing a 15-page script. I will be able to workshop with my students and review their work. I will be able to expand on what their ELA and Reading teachers are teaching in class. Because Lord help me, these students write like they are texting. The finished film will be about 15 minutes long. The directors, actors, crew, and basically every step of the production are under the control of the students. I am just there to help along the way when needed. Students are not only learning teamwork; they are learning time management and problem-solving skills.


Again this is a total waste of time.


This teacher was right. Students shouldn’t worry about my class. Their entire school experience should be about their core classes because those teachers can get in their standards while expanding on other necessary skills that young minds need to learn.


Or maybe people can see the value of having a well-rounded education and not judge what they do not know.

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