Ten Things Can That Drive Broadcast Teachers Crazy
10. Keeping students on task consistently. Deadlines vary. Some kids finish work and have nothing to do, while others continue various projects, and of course some students are just not team players, so they end up working alone. It is a balancing act, and you hope your admins understand. SOLUTION: In your syllabus, protect yourself. "Each quarter, students will be assigned independent production activities." Then find one-man-band stories for the lone wolves to cover, things like school clubs, assemblies, promos, the bake sale. Anything, really. Maybe an audio story, or a print piece for your website. Be creative. It should not be a punishment assignment...it's just a regular part of your class.
9. Keeping track of all the equipment. Talk about a headache...who took what? Students will grab things at the last minute, not tell you, and three days later, you are missing a wireless mic, a tripod, a laptop. SOLUTION: Have a sign-out board in plain site--and make kids sign out every item. It makes a nice visual reminder of who has which piece. If this does not work, you have to take away the privilege. Your equipment is too important, and every camera not returned in a timely fashion is a piece of equipment another student is waiting on.
8. Those outside projects. You know the ones...the PSA for the non-profit...the football game you were asked to shoot...the "welcome to our school" video for incoming students. It is not that colleagues or friends have little respect for your time. It really can be more about them trusting you and your kids to do good work (at little or no cost). SOLUTION: You have to learn to say NO. Remember your syllabus--did you include the outside projects as part of your curriculum, your class expectations? If not, say NO. Or...say yes, but for a fee. Use these opportunities to raise some funds for some equipment, a trip, batteries, SD cards, whatever. But ultimately, this one is on you, teacher/adviser. Saying NO can save you.
7. Controversial stories. Talk about a pain. Your kids keep pitching stories that will make others uncomfortable, or rock a boat that might be easier to leave alone. This one comes down to a number of things--do you have tenure? That helps. Teachers can get fired or reprimanded for controversial stories. Do you control your show's content, or do the students? If you are an "open forum for student expression," it's the kids' call (and they have to answer for it). If not, you, as an employee of the district, can be ruled insubordinate for bucking your superiors. Know where you stand. SOLUTION: Decide if you are a journalism program, or an information/entertainment program? Make that clear to all from the outset. If you are doing journalism, part of that job is covering news someone does not want covered. It comes with the territory, even at the scholastic level. If doing journalism pushes you out of your comfort zone, or you have little journalistic training yourself, there may be too many land mines in your future. Maybe change or clarify your program's focus. You know where your strengths are, and what you are qualified to teach.
6. The changing technology. It is such a challenge, just keeping up with what is happening with gear on a regular basis. Moving to the world of DSLRs is pretty much a given for scholastic programs these days. Everyone wants the prettier pictures, the depth of field thing...just one more piece of equipment to learn and teach. And should you go totally with laptops, or are some iMacs still a good idea? Wireless mics? A drone? A GoPro? Do we need all that? The technology you purchase requires lots of homework on your part. SOLUTION: Talk to colleagues who have been at this a while. The veteran broadcast teachers have all been burned by bad gear purchases. They are usually very willing to advise others so they avoid the same mistakes. One more thing--you do not need a green screen to produce a show. You really don't.
5. Editing software. It used to be an ongoing debate. Mac vs. PC. Final Cut Pro vs. Premiere or Avid. Even Avid vs. Premiere. On and on it went. Then Apple totally changed things with Final Cut Pro X, which looked nothing like the previous versions of FCP. It was a huge letdown for Final Cut users who thought X was just iMovie on steroids. Many bailed. We hear a lot about school broadcast programs moving to Premiere, even if they held on to their Macs. SOLUTION: I asked a college broadcast teacher a couple of weeks ago about this dilemma. Should I dump FCP X and go to Premiere? Am I hurting my kids who might go "into the industry?" He looked at me and said, "Do you know if something was edited on Adobe or Apple just by watching?" No. Of course not. Good point. He continued to say that he has both FCP and Premiere, and the students who come in knowing FCP have little trouble learning Premiere, and then he lets them edit on either. Wow. What a concept.
4. The show thing. What kind of show do you do? Is it the kind of show kids are watching? Or are we stuck in a rut in scholastic broadcasting? It seems like we ignore the data in front of us. Viewers online give a clip less than 10 seconds to get their attention. They click away fast if it is not something they care about. How many viewers actually will sit and watch your 15 or 20 minute program unless they are a captive audience watching it in a classroom? I wonder if you are having discussions about your programming with the kids who produce it? It looks to me like the only place long-form shows are popular is in national contests that still have categories for longer shows. SOLUTION: We all need to think about this, and see if our model is just "what has always been." Maybe it works for you, but maybe you just think it works for you.
3. The film thing. If you polled your students right now, many of you would find out just how many of them prefer to do "film" stuff, and not "journalism" stuff. Kids are into film. They really like making short movies. Do you embrace this? Is it time to surrender, to set aside all that journalism you try to do, and give the creative types the freedom to follow their passion? SOLUTION: In high school, we have the luxury of doing both. We can maintain a journalism class that occasionally steps into the movie-making world. It can be a great change of pace. It also is playing fair with the film-ish students. They do journalism part of the time, with the understanding they can have time to create a short movie for a contest or screening down the road. I think we can meet kids part-way on this. Best case scenario, kids from both sides learn to appreciate the other.
2. To enter or not to enter. There are contests for broadcast and video production all over the place. Teachers can submit student videos every week somewhere, it seems. Should you? It is always a good idea to seek outside feedback on your work. Many of the contests provide this in the form of critiques (STN, JEA, ASB all do this with their contests). SOLUTION: Instead of contests driving your productions, consider making contests an afterthought. Approach it like this: "Hey, if we do some really good work, I will see about submitting it." Make contest submissions the icing on the cake. Make doing good work the constant goal in your program. Applaud improvement and effort. Not everyone needs a certificate. They do need a teacher's encouragement now and then.
1. Grading. Yes, grading is a fact of life for all teachers. How fun is it when so much of what your kids produce for your class has to be graded subjectively? We battle this all the time--how to give a fair assessment of student work in video classes. SOLUTION: Grade the process, not the result. You can have daily or weekly grades to reflect the progress of a production. You can also use a checklist for the project, grading kids for meeting a number of small deadlines (shot list composed, interview conducted, clips organized, script drafted, etc.). Then, of course, you can give some sort of grade for the final project, but maybe it should not be worth more than the process grades. In other words, grade the journey, not the destination.