This year was different. Instead of walking into the Bear Den, which has been my professional home for the last three years, I walked through the gates of the Hawk’s Nest. To say I was apprehensive about my first day back on a high school campus is an understatement. Imposter syndrome had hit me hard over the summer. I know the work my future students can create and, to be honest, that’s not how my brain works.
I can edit breaking news until I am blue in the face, but that’s not what I was doing. I was now in charge of the junior and senior film students. My strength is writing, not production. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to correct people’s work. I am a manager at heart. I love training people and giving them the tools to succeed.
Accepting my new role was a two month long mental process. In July, I headed to a new classroom with my co-teacher and mentor for the last twenty years. The room was a hot mess. The cabinets were filled with abandoned papers, folders, and work that had been in here since the school opened in 2005. I didn’t know where to start. I felt like I would never be ready with how much I had to purge and set up. But God sent angels in the form of two of my former students. They just were at school with their mom/aunt. I lost count of how many times I would receive a text from that asking if I was going to be on campus and even if I wasn’t, they would go into my room and clean. I don’t think my room would have been done by the first week of August without their help.
My mentor helped me transform my boring room into something fun because my brain was broken. I was struggling to figure out how to take three classrooms’ worth of stuff and fit it into one room. But fortunately, I wasn’t alone. My mentor totally had not been planning what room I’d be taking over for the last ten months or more. If you didn’t read that with sarcasm, I don’t know what to tell you. Walking into a classroom with functioning equipment felt strange. Knowing there was a budget at my disposal made the situation even more peculiar. However, the hardest thing that I will have to get used to this year is not being alone. Finally, I had a colleague in my profession, someone to bounce ideas off of. Which I will be forever grateful because right now I’m just trying to keep my head above water.
As time crept closer for the students to return to campus, I faced an additional problem. I had to make sure that my first-year students would live up to my mentor’s expectations. Once more, the lifesaver that eluded me during my initial three years of teaching was present. Yes, my mentor helped me out with getting ideas for my middle school students. However, I created all my lectures and developed my curriculum. I wasn’t sure what I was doing was right. I just knew that the kids were learning and could create content that was unexpected for them at the middle school level. But this year I had everything in front of me. A part of me desired to change it, but I didn’t feel ready.
I wanted to see how my mentor taught his classes. It had been twenty-plus years since I had been face to face with what he teaches and I am not that arrogant to think I know better. His system works. Students from this program win awards, they get jobs; and they are admitted into amazing colleges. Students who graduate from this TV Production Academy have life skills and I am proof of that.
However, I’m basically sunshine mixed with a little hurricane, so of course after I digest everything from this year I’ll have to put my spin on it.
This week my TV 1 students are learning about basic camera shots and shot composition. When I opened the lecture, I legitimately laughed out loud. I came face to face with the same images that I used in my lecture that I created three years ago. It looks like we had the same sources. Undoubtedly because he gave me a bunch. But he threw so much information at me I wasn’t sure what he used and what was just given as a “here figure it out” source.
As we went through the lecture, I noticed something. I went way more in-depth on certain subjects. When reviewing the rule of thirds, he only had one slide. I have an entire lecture dedicated to the rule of thirds. It’s just funny what people focus on.
The apprehension that I had with my upper classmen has also begun to fade. When I introduced myself to my first class, four boys sat there, radiating a “too cool for school” vibe. They underestimated me when I didn’t call them out. Instead, I intended to let their work speak for itself, yet their first project contained silly errors that a 4th year student should not make. When I could point out their mistakes, the laughing stopped. The next day, when I was bringing up the new assignment, they were all ears. I explained to the class what I would be challenging them with and everyone had a look of challenge acceptance on their face.
We’ve only been in school for two weeks and I can already see why my mentor kept saying he needs a female in the academy. Some of these girls are intense. We are an arts program and that means we get some exceptionally interesting students. I have one who is interested in being a writer, however she hyper fixates on things. I could spot this out before he ever warned me. Another girl thinks she’s quirky and can get away with her unlying rudeness by squeaking. That shit will not fly. And then there are typical issues that girls face. A freshman who is being vindictive to her ex-boyfriend. Another who has a crush on a guy who doesn’t know she’s alive. Gossip is already flowing and I can’t say I hate it. I think the gossip keeps the day entertaining.
So do I miss my middle school, in a way yes. I miss the professional friends I made. But graduating simultaneously as the students who I have been with over the last three years has made the change easier. I don’t doubt myself as a teacher like I did when I came into this field. I know my shit. Now comes the hard part and ensuring students can produce content that far outshines what the adults expect them to do.
I always enjoyed a good challenge.