Lent, Teaching

Day 22: There’s no room for your opinion on my newscast

There is a disturbing joke that is all too real that describes the modern journalistic world: “never let the truth get in the way of a good news story.” And doing the opposite of this is something that I stress to my news students. I constantly tell them your opinion has no place in the newsroom. We are there to present facts. It doesn’t matter if the on-air talent enjoys the story or not because they are not there to sway the audience one way or another. We are conducting a newscast, not a talk show, and even though this is lost upon many professionals, as of late, I’m doing my part in instilling it into my students. 

This week all my students were put to the test. We indeed had to practice what I preach. There is a new club starting on campus, one that not everyone agrees with. Quite a few of my students were very vocal in opposition to the club, while others did support it. I made a quick announcement before all hell broke loose. 

I asked my anchors what the point of the news is? They said to present the facts. I asked them whether they liked the club, a fact or their opinion. Quickly they answered with an opinion. I said good, because your opinions have no place in my studio. I told them all opinions are kept outside my classroom walls. Just like their discussion of their latest boy/girl friend has no place in my class, neither does their attitude toward a story we’ve been asked to cover 

This is where I reminded them that we have two religious clubs on campus. I asked my students if they knew my feelings about those two clubs, and everyone in my class said no. And I said good because my opinion on those clubs or any club does not matter, nor does my opinion on this new colorful, open to all safe space club matter. Because I’m there to teach just like they are there to report on what is happening at the school. Everyone nodded in agreement. 

When my anchors read the story about the new club, you could not tell how they felt about it.  Could they have had more personality in the newscast… Sure, of course, they could have, but I just chewed out the whole class for getting an attitude with each other. I swear World War three was about to go down over a rainbow club, and I was not about to have that. 

My students know that I believe in the freedom of the press and how important it is to have journalists. But I have also taught them how to look at a new story and break down whether the reporter is presenting facts or facts with a bias. My eighth graders have gotten good at pointing out opinions in a news story and my seventh graders are getting there. If my students never progress more in their TV Production career, I hope they learn one thing: how to analyze a story, discover what the facts are, and break them away from the on-air talents’ opinions. 

Lent

Day 19: Life off social media

Today I received a message from a friend who I haven’t talked to in a while. She forwarded me a message about one of our high school classmates who passed away. Until the message this afternoon, I hadn’t seen nor did anyone bring up that a classmate died. It’s crazy knowing that on February 22, I deleted all my social media apps from my phone and logged out of them from my computer, and our classmate passed away four days later. I found out about her nineteen days later. 

When I decided to do this social media detox, I wondered what I would miss. I thought of my friends who just had babies posting pictures or maybe missing out on living vicariously through my friends who don’t have kids and watching their travels. But I didn’t think it would be something this tragic. 

Life has gotten crazy. With three kids, a full-time job, and just as many sports that it feels like another full-time job, I’ve been slacking in the friend department. I am disappointed with how much I rely on social media to keep up with friends and families, especially those living out of state. 

My girlfriend, who sent me the message lives in California. We haven’t seen each other in nearly eight years, but I follow her life through the screen in my hand. There have been times when I wanted to reach out and see how she was doing, but social media has a way of tricking you into believing that you know what’s happening in everyone’s lives. I hate feeling like I’m inconveniencing people, so it’s much easier to like a picture and leave a comment than to reach out. 

We talked a little, asked how each other was doing and joked about how we were much happier in our second marriage. We talked about how we should be better about reaching out. It’s a routine repeated over and over again as we all get busy with life. We’ll send messages on holidays and birthdays, but nothing significant until something eventful happens. 

Lent, Teaching

Day 17: Controlled Chaos in the control room

When I asked one of my students what I should write about today, she said, “write about us!” I told her that I had before. However, I didn’t think today would turn out to be such controlled chaos.

Today was a hot mess express. Actually, the whole week has been a shit show and a half. Students are losing their damn minds with the full moon. If you don’t think the moon controls the kids, you haven’t spent enough time around hundreds of students on campus. But today was probably the most hilarious of them all. Usually, my students run the newscast by themselves without any assistance. But since the computer that usually does graphics died, and the replacement needs to have my profile on it, they can no longer do their job adult free. Not that I don’t fully trust them not to change their grades, but I’m not giving them the opportunity. 

Today’s class that handled the newscast has nine very vocal females and one far less vocal male. We had a guest classmate come in and add some testosterone to the room. It didn’t help much. The girls are still in complete control of the chaos. We did a few run-throughs of the script before recording. This gives everyone in the control room a chance to get familiar with what graphics will be coming up, who is tossing to weather, and setting the audio levels. Well, today wasn’t our smoothest rehearsal. 

First, we had audio issues. For some reason, the student running the board thought she should start the show with the volume faders all the way up. The moment the anchors’ mics came on, it sounded like our speakers were blown. Everything was overmodulated. She started screaming, confused about why everything was so loud. I told her to look at her levels and bring them down. Instead of bringing them down, she kept yelling over the anchors. Finally, the line producer leaned over and dropped their audio to a manageable level. 

The technical director rolled on our first take with the audio crisis averted. It should have been our only take since everything was going smoothly. That was until the audio operator forgot to unmute the weather anchor. Everyone in the back started yelling at her because we were only a story and a half away from being done with the newscast. My students pride themselves on being able to record in one take. They do their best to record live to tape and try not to leave anything for me to edit. They also know that the moment they mess up something, the ball starts rolling, and so many other things start to mess up.

And that is precisely what happened. 

The anchors flubbed their lines a few times, and I threatened to fire them. They quickly switched roles, so the other was now reading the names from the basketball game. Things seemed to be going great until our audio person became distracted and forgot to mute everyone while the weather opening played. The recording started over, and anchor one sounded dead while anchor two sounded like he took speed. I told them they were both about to lose their jobs, and they promised they’d do better. 

The line producer called standby and began the countdown. Then all hell broke loose. The floor director was in her own world and forgot to count the anchors in. So we just had the boys staring at the screen while the lounge producer started shouting in the head seat. Anchor one lost his shit, and my director ran out, nearly jumping up and down. She told him, “now read the announcements with that energy,” and he did. We were almost done with a great take until my audio operator squealed so loudly and threw up her arms that my weather anchor thought she had done something wrong. Everything was lost in the moment. We tried to pick up the take from the weather opening, but it was lost. We had to start over. 

At this point, we had fifteen minutes left of our fifty-minute class. The new floor director counted in the on-air talent, and Anchor one sounded like he could pass for a zombie while anchor two, well, he could read the names, so we just had to roll with it. 

I think I was ready to give up on the day. Everyone was out of sorts and making careless mistakes. We didn’t have time to switch, and the two that usually were my go-to on-air talent decided that today they were protesting because “like we always do it.” 

We finally got a passable take. There were some graphic errors because the right arrow became stuck. That problem was the only one that could be fixed in post, so we kept it. 

I really can’t be too frustrated. The kids did great. Repeating the script, punching the show, and rolling with tech issues with a fair amount of emotional control. I worked long enough in the professional world to know that not many adults could keep their composure as my 12 & 13-year-olds did. 

Lent, Teaching

Day 4: Work Life Balance

There is something strange about having a tiny communications device always attached to you. Because of this, it gives people the false sense that they are entitled to your time. This way of thinking is highly prominent when it comes to work-life balance. People expect you to respond to them immediately and get upset when you don’t. They don’t understand that, yes, they may send you a message, but that does not mean that you are under any obligation to respond. 

I have found this way of thinking to have been amplified since becoming a teacher. 

When I worked in broadcasting, I received a plethora of emails at odd hours. The network I worked at aired in the Middle East, and since I lived on the east coast of Florida, it meant my primary communications would be late at night or in the early morning hours. But I also worked from 3 to 11 at night to accommodate this kind of communication. 

There were a few times when I was on vacation that I had to call into work and walk someone through where to find the files. I received compensation for working during my time off. 

This kind of compensation is not extended to teachers or really to anyone for that matter. 

As a teacher, I expect emails from parents and students, but I did not expect the entitlement of how quickly both parties expect responses back. I have received emails from students while I was teaching, and I could not respond. That student sent me six emails in a matter of fifteen minutes, demanding I answer their question. Mind you; this student asked when I would enter their grade for their late work that should have been turned in three weeks prior. While this kind of correspondence is utterly uncalled for, I can excuse it slightly because my students’ ages range from 11 to 14.

What isn’t excusable is the same behavior from their parents. 

My contracted work hours are from 8:45 am – 4:15 pm, Monday through Friday. I do not earn extra pay or time off working outside those hours. I arrive at work usually around 8:15 and begin answering emails. I will even answer emails after hours if I’m not busy with my family. In the last three years, parents and students have exploited this time extension. 

When I started teaching, the emails came between 4:30 to five. But now, in my third year, emails are coming in at all hours of the night. Students and parents are emailing me between nine and ten at night. A: I don’t read them because my newborn needs my full attention, B: I’m usually getting ready for bed, and C: I teach tv production, and nothing significant requires an immediate answer. 

Students have become so accustomed to emailing teachers whenever they feel like it they don’t ask questions during school hours. They don’t feel it’s necessary because if they have any issues, they can email at midnight. Even though it’s not expected or encouraged for teachers to communicate after hours, that does not mean I haven’t received hostile emails from parents because I didn’t respond when their student asked me a question—those emails I choose to ignore until the next school day. There are zero reasons for me to get upset or flustered over things I can’t fix at home. 

If a student had a question on a project, they should have asked it during class. I make sure students have ample time to complete their work in school. I know students these days have a lot on their plate, and as I said, I teach TV Production. They shouldn’t be stressing over my class when they have much more complicated math and ela classes to worry about. 

It’s disappointing how many emails I have waiting for me when all my students know my classroom door opens a full hour before school starts. When I have encouraged them to come in in the mornings for help, they tell me it’s too early, or their parents won’t bring them because it doesn’t fit into their schedule. I’ve been told that if I just answered my emails over the weekend, they wouldn’t have to come in early. But then I informed them that answering their emails after hours didn’t fit into my schedule.