Up to speed

We're about a month into the new school year, and things are settling in, the names and faces are beginning to match up, students have stopped shuffling from one class to another, looking for the right balance of entertainment, percentage of friends in the class, not too much work, and hopefully near their locker.

Despite how cynical that last sentence was, I'm actually pleased with many of the students who have fallen to my lot. A good number seem to have brains, talent, curiosity, and show fair amounts of enthusiasm.

One student, a senior, has returned. He took my design class when he was a sophomore, and was very visually talented, but was such a little snot, always calling me over with a question, and managing to say something totally jerky just after I had helped him. He was about six-foot-three at the time, and I kept thinking he was a senior, and expecting him to act like a human being, but he was just incapable of it, despite his obvious intelligence. I liked him anyway, and in my usual blunt manner would frequently tease him about how awful he was, and how he couldn't even stop if he tried. He would just laugh and do or say something else jerky.

The next year, the first day of school, he waltzed into my classroom and announced, 'I'm in your class." I looked at him. "No you're not."
"Yeah I am. Really."
"Yeah I am."

He wasn't. He just needed to be jerky.

But he came in from time-to-time to use the scanner, the computer, the camera. And he was doing beautiful work. What an eye. And gradually, almost imperceptibly, he began to change. He didn't need to make the remark, or get that last annoying jab in every time. His maturity was catching up to his height. Finally one day he came in and forgot to be a jerk.

One of the final days of school last June I passed him in the hall. "I'm in your video class next year."
"You really are, aren't you?"

He's doing exquisite camerawork. And he's helping with the school paper. Today he and the head sportswriter went out to take photos for the Baseball and football articles (I wouldn't let them use internet photos). He came back with the coolest photo of home plate, covered with dusty footprints, surrounded by the ghosts of dozens more in the dirt chronicling the efforts of countless anonymous players. Another photo showed a blaze of light glinting off the football goal posts, with silhouettes of trees and a streaked sky in the background. Less original, but well done and fresh.

A few other stars are starting to emerge. I have to resist the urge to try and teach them everything all at once. I have to resist the urge to do every job on the school paper myself and make all decisions unilaterally. So far, things are good. I'd like to write more, but I'm falling asleep and I must go join my snoring herd of dogs. Hope they're left me some room on the bed


Labor day update

Haven't written anything here since school started, and we're already two weeks into the school year now. All the classes I took over the summer are paying off, and I've taught more in the first two weeks of Video Production than I taught all last year.

Other classes are going OK so far, but my Graphic design and Web classes are sparse. Journalism and Video are huge. I'm being pulled in new directions whether I like it or not. It seems that my lot is always to be teaching just out of my comfort zone, and I guess if I had to choose I'd opt for keeping it this way. Growth is not comfortable, and has to be forced on most of us, who would rather be revered sages dispensing knowledge securely pinned down and calcified years ago. Instead, my whole field, communication and design, makes a major technical and aesthetic sea change every year or so. New software and hardware, new possibilities, new trends and taste (or lack of). Exhausting yet exhilerating.

It's early in the year to tell if any students will emerge as big talents, and naturally if they appear it makes my job more interesting and fun, but some years are better than others, and I have to teach them all 'as if', because I've learned from past students that the most unlikely ones sometimes go on to do great things. Not for me to pass judgement, but I still hope to see that spark in some of them.

My first year of teaching Journalism here. The school paper will be coming out soonish and the pressure's on, and people will be watching closely. It's been called the Sandpiper, but my students and I want to re-name it. What the hell does a delicate shore bird signify to any of our MTV'd out students? They have voted on "Un_Folded", but the principal is hesitant, citing tradition, and as a compromise I've suggested, "Un_Folded, the paper formerly known as the Sandpiper".

It could be worse. I could have decided to question the clownish religious figure passing as our public school mascot. The Padre, as in Junipero Serra, the Catholic missionary. The kids sometimes refer to him as that little Indian killer... As a Jewish/Muslim female I just can't relate to being called a Padre. Padre, schmadre, I say. But I'll save that battle for another day. It would mean taking on the whole community, and I'm not that invested. After my martyrdom they would only replace him with some viscous animal anyway. Tigers, bears, cougars, panthers, WHATever....Or hey, how about a Sandpiper! The Mighty Sandpipers! Crush 'em, Sandpipers!