Posts

Comments

Get Posts by E-mail

Everything Is Everything

Even on the days I want to put teaching down, to drop that job just for a day and pick this one up singlemindedly, I can’t. I produced a short for the primary-age division of Mount Hermon last week, a weekly kick-off piece that outlines the camp’s five rules.

Five rules, five sketches.

For perhaps the first time in my short career cutting video, every joke landed, every pocket of tension I sewed into place was tense, every moment I wanted to play big played big. Not a perfect movie by any stretch, but there were no surprises.

I aspire to “no surprises” in my teaching, a goal which doesn’t stand opposite spontaneous, lively instruction, a goal which isn’t inflexible to learner needs. “No surprises” means not tightening the bolts on an elaborate learning moment only to watch it collapse because I overestimated our readiness or overestimated student interest or didn’t incentivizeEr, weird. I thought I was making up a word there. it well enough. Surprise!

For the first time in my career, I planned a linear lesson that didn’t surprise me. For the first time in my career, I produced a short film that didn’t surprise me. Frustratingly, at a time when I’d rather take a mental break from teaching, I find both accomplishments to be thoroughly interwoven.

Both involve a peculiar form of time travel, one in which I not only trek into the future and watch my own lesson/movie unspool, but in which I jump into each student’s/viewer’s head and track her emotional and intellectual state throughout every moment of the lesson/movie. When writing a lesson or a movie, I have to get out there, a day or more into the future, and pay particularly close attention to anyone thinking “I don’t get it” or “I’m bored.”Hollywood has literalized this process substantially with focus group testing. Figures if a joke falls flat in front of a small crowd at a mall in Laughlin, it ain’t gonna do much better when the film opens nationwide across 2000 screens.

Given the inexactitude of both time travel and telepathy I hope no one will jump on my case for admitting I’ve been kinda terrible at both skills for most of both careers. They grow easier, though, as I grow more empathic to the needs and expectations of my audience and as I ponder my flops in both fields. It’s also growing clearer that the harder I work, the more everything, or at least these two things, connects.

8 Responses to “Everything Is Everything”

  1. on 26 Jun 2007 at 3:35 pmScott Elias

    What’s the software you’re running in the screenshot, Dan?

  2. on 26 Jun 2007 at 4:17 pmdan

    Se llama “DVD Studio Pro.”

  3. on 27 Jun 2007 at 8:35 amScott Elias

    Ah. Got it. Didn’t look like iDVD so I was thrown for a loop. I think it’s fascinating to see what (besides teaching and administrator-ing) folks are up to over the summer. Looks like you’ve got a fun gig over there!!

    But the big question is whether you’ll be waiting in line for an iPhone on Friday…

  4. on 27 Jun 2007 at 8:50 amdan

    Well, I’m not rushing our to re-up my Verizon plan but for now I think I’ll bide my time. Sidelines will be a fun place to watch from this Friday.

  5. on 27 Jun 2007 at 9:35 ammrc

    If “incentivize” seems a little too flashy you could try “incent”… apparently both are back-formed from incentive.

  6. on 28 Jun 2007 at 7:21 amChristian

    Love the following comment you made, Dan:

    “Both involve a peculiar form of time travel, one in which I not only trek into the future and watch my own lesson/movie unspool, but in which I jump into each student’s/viewer’s head and track her emotional and intellectual state throughout every moment of the lesson/movie. When writing a lesson or a movie, I have to get out there, a day or more into the future, and pay particularly close attention to anyone thinking “I don’t get it” or “I’m bored.”2″

    Well said now. Well said indefinitely!

    After awhile you become more Neo being able to watch the bullet sit still in the air rather than a mad hamster scrambling to and fro to predict every possible computation of the human reaction genome.

    I think you’re more Neo than hamster (in case your taking bets), he smiles.

    Since life always presents opportunities to question, I do ask you the following. While focusing great energy and intention on wondering what students “don’t get it” or are “bored” is powerful stuff — and ignored by most teachers for a host of reasons — I do wonder what the questions would be if the kids themselves were working WITH you to co-create some of the materials (projects, research, experiments, videos, lessons, etc.) while you continued to be the leading expert in the room guiding their work?

    Would it be more film-making with an audience that wants to be entertained?

    OR would it be more of a film-making studio where you as experienced director/filmmaker were working with aspiring directors/filmmakers by being in a laboratory/studio situation where they co-created with you…to support their end-game of becoming experts?

    Forcing the question, I’ll admit, but curious.

    Otherwise, rock on, my teacher brother (nice to say that after 3 years away from the day-to-day game)!

  7. on 28 Jun 2007 at 10:38 amdan

    Hey Christian,

    I figured my “no surprises” remark was gonna clang on your radar. You’re comfortingly predictable like that and, for whatever its worth, your good-spirited nagging has had a positive effect on my classroom.

    [ASIDE: During our Venn diagram unit I was flashing some of Indexed awesome diagramming and suddenly I was like, wtf would Christian say right now? So I gave them all a day and told them to bring me a witty/insightful Venn diagramming of their own lives.]

    Anyway, I’ve just now written a post and I’ll echo the thesis here:

    I can see the next-gen School-2.0 flag waving proudly over a lit class or a history class. I really can. And I mean this in the least narcissistic way possible, but I think math is different.

    We don’t show movies; group projects are infrequent; it is, by necessity, not by my preference, more structured.

    I don’t know many ways around that nor are there a surplus of math teachers in School 2.0 land whose experiences I can pick apart. Darren Kuropatwa does really cool things but addresses a very different crowd than I do.

  8. […] Everything Is Everything. Find teaching in your home. […]