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 incentivize
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.”
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.