The Camera’s Rolling

I hate being filmed or recorded, don’t you?  My voice sounds like an old lady’s voice on recordings.  Why can’t everyone hear the voice I hear from inside my head?  It’s much more normal sounding.  And I never know what to do with my hands: Cross my arms?  Clasp hands in front?  In back?  Sometimes I end up just wringing my hands until I notice and make myself stop.

I got a message last week about a video and photo shoot I’m expected to attend on Thursday for this year’s site teachers of the year.  Now, I know it’s an honor to be given this opportunity to represent our tiny school within this huge district.  And I take the responsibility seriously, but I can’t help feeling I got selected because no one else at my school wanted the job.  There are a couple of videos to shoot–one of me teaching in the classroom–a lengthy portfolio to write, and interviews with district administrators.  Of course, there’s a really nice banquet in the spring, but that’s a long way off.

To prepare for this week’s filming, I’m contemplating the question I’m supposed to answer on tape: What excites me about teaching and about students?  Sounds simple enough, and I expect my segment won’t run more than a minute and a half at most.  I’ll probably lose a lot of sleep over this 90-second spot, though.

When I entered the process for an alternative teaching certificate seven years ago, I was asked why I wanted to be a teacher and I agonized over the answer to that question as well.  I think I wanted to be a teacher then and now because I want to have a positive influence on the lives of young people.  I know I’m not alone in this, as most teachers undoubtedly have the same goal.  The reality is that most days I have no clue whether I’ve had any impact at all.

In some ways, teaching is like operating in the dark.  None of us can see into the minds of our students, nor can we recognize when their eyes have been opened just a little wider or their neurons have formed just a few new connections.  The students themselves don’t recognize it.  We do what we do–in the dark–because we have faith that each day just a little more light will shine in to brighten these young people’s hopes and imaginations.  We bungle around with our SmartBoards and clickers, our video clips, our labs,  our projects, and our games, and we hope they engage students long enough for some content to sink in.  We’re an optimistic lot.

In spite of the many frustrations and setbacks, there are days.  Oh, yes, there are days.  On some days, you can almost hear the neurons firing in a student’s head and there’s a tentative look that says, “I get it, I think.”  They can’t admit it aloud, of course, because these are teenagers, and they wouldn’t dare.  But there might be a slight smile pass between you, a conspiracy of silence.  And I have to avert my eyes so they don’t see the tears in them.  I’m a sucker for the slightest encouragement.  Does this sound like what excites me about teaching?  I didn’t think so, but there it is: the honest truth.

So when the camera begins to roll on Thursday, I don’t know what I’ll say.  If you have any ideas for me, please pass them along.  In the meantime, I’ll be digging through my closet for something to wear.  Is it soft colors or bright colors that add ten pounds on film?

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