Begin the Begin

A new semester, and new experience, a great REM song. It’s springtime 2017, and you’re revved up to make videos. Why? Why did you take this class ? Why? Why am I teaching this class? Both good questions! If we find our motivation, we’ll take action with enthusiasm, shoot for a goal, keep our eyes on the prize. There are ways to get to the heart of our motivation. Ask yourself: What do you want ? Is it to make a better home video? Are you trying to promote yourself or your business? Do you just like to shoot videos with your camera and want to do something with them? Have you been inspired by videos and thought you’d like to try making one yourself? Are you a video maker that wants to get better? What story do you want to tell?

How do you want to make the world better, and how can you do it through your video voice?

 

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January 16, 2017 · 9:39 pm

Breakdown

Years ago I was walking across the quad and ran into a guy I knew a little, because in towns like this you know most people a little bit. He was about to go to class. “Communication. Like, I need a class for that?”. I saw the point. We were communicating right there, which we obviously knew how to do. Why a class in something I do already, have been doing, and seem to do just fine already. Extend that a little further, and a lot of the educational mission goes out the window – generally, the liberal education part. The part about learning what our minds do.

Thinking about thinking. Writing is thought, out in the open. You are reading my mind right now. Yeah, I’m scared, too!

Things seem so simple, until we begin to dig a little. I start to write a simple little blog about this guy I talked to, whose 1-minute encounter sticks with me to this day for some reason…for some reason, and I wonder what it is, because most things are quickly and forever forgotten, but not that. Suddenly I’m in the thick of thinking, and I see it on the page in front of me. It’s an alphabet jungle. Communicating. I learned to communicate from being a baby with my mom. I hope you’re laughing at that sentence.

I learned to communicate by reading, writing and talking. I like to read but I’m not a bookyworm by any stretch. I like to write but it’s really really difficult to keep the slumbering fire hose to stay on topic. I like to talk but that takes real effort due to many things, among them its terrifying immediacy and the fear of what might come out. Perhaps if I took a class….

Truth: I held the opinion of the quad-persona on a very superficial level and failed to see the purpose. Never took communication101, 102, or even 058. I see things a bit differently now. Communication is EVERYTHING. I’m suddenly enthusiastic because I do believe that, (and it’s exciting to feel something with certainty) but I will keep the caps unlocked for the rest of this, if you do continue on after that outburst. Not much more now…

Learning something specific is interesting. Learning about learning is fascinating. Learning about each other is fulfilling. The Winter Institute is coming up and I’m worrying about getting sessions together and will anyone show up and… whatever happens, the thing I have and always will enjoy most is being together, talking: communicating. Taking time to read a 9x9x25 blog post seems like a pretty frivolous diversion from the massive to-do list I have before me, and I never, ever, regret it. Writing about something and posting it to the world (of perhaps 3, very dear, readers) is completely audacious and over the edge of my comfort level, and the view out here is pretty spectacular. If it goes unread, I have at least communicated with myself, and I know a little more about the hidden conversation that goes on beneath the surface.

A person I know a little, because in this college community we all know each other a little, spontaneously told me how much she liked reading these blogs. It helped them see all these other parts of our college life that we don’t otherwise see. It helped provide perspective, and through this very personal kind of communication, brought a bit of clarity; a window through the cubes and walls of email-ish formality. I hope you’ll all write one from your points of view. I’m very curious.

 

 

 

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November 15, 2016 · 7:40 am

writhing

its pretty bad the writing that happens and doesn’t happen in the span of an average day spinning in the chair, today. Wondering. some people can’t even read. some can’t rite or spell. it si importante that we have clarity clear writing to express thoughts in a way that we can get to the point. we can use or not use or not care in poetic langourage how people think of us. Things of us reman on the page. This 1 exampl.

Use paragraphs.

I see less bad writing than the English teach hers {but a bit lately and wonder if we can survive without writing. writing good. Well, Just text me. All emojies, all the time. I like the freedom not worrying about the punctuation situation and stiff rules that govern the runes the ruins of symbolic expression we find ourselves in now. then ; forever. There are still good writers. Even if I misspill all the time. Even if they can’t get it in the lines. (They, not me, because I’m a great believer in good form. I love knowing how possessive catapostrophies work. And hyphens, glorious hyphen-nation this country was built on hyphens.

I want to forgive every person who misspelled. I know some beloved people who made spellling errors and still moved people with their wordles. Moved them deeple. Deepened their understanding of teaching and

Said beauty. Full things. Real things and despite their lack of preparation for the next edu-level went to our great accepting collegiate experiment in community of learning. Welcome ALL. You are welcome. We’ll nurture you to be better writers, because you are good learners, Courageous gorgeous people all.

To get back to my thesis question: no, and yes. We can survive without being able to write well, but we wont thrive. Let’s agree to forgive and get gooder at everything.

 

 

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November 7, 2016 · 8:42 pm

Whatt’ya Know?

Not much – but I can learn whatever I need to. As a great Yavapai teacher says, slightly tongue in cheek, “The truth is I’m not crazy about teaching, what I really love is learning.” And what better way to learn than to teach; learning to be humbler, much humbler than I was when I made the lesson plan.

It’s written somewhere on the inside of my eyelids, that whatever I think I know, well, I could be wrong. Bing! Free. Free-er. I feel freer when I remember that, because I struggle with feeling wrong, when in truth I’m never wrong, as long as I don’t have to be right.

Wonderful. SO… how does that feel in front of a class of students, to not know? Students have said that among the top (2, 6, 8, 12, – many lists out there) things they want from their teacher is expertise in their field, teaching technology proves me an amateur almost every time. Last night I got real and showed the class that I don’t actually know what those sliders mean, I just know that if you jiggle them around you’ll get the desired result. Later, on another effect that has just TWO sliders, I didn’t get the result I wanted, but the students did. I got that awesome learning feeling.

Flustered, no! heck no, thanked them.

Ok, yes, in the back of my mind I was berating myself for not figuring this out beforehand. I am happy students are empowered to discover, and I remind them that I sure donno everthang, but I wonder at what point they may distrust or disregard my lessons if this shows up too often. Where is the sweet ‘learning together’ spot?

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October 27, 2016 · 11:32 am

Critique Critique

We left off last week all excited about the class critique. Follow up: went great! They nearly all posted in their reflections that the feedback they got was beneficial.

They’re talking more freely and starting to use the language of the discipline. Score!

There was one especially provocative comment: why are we doing this? That’s a paraphrase, actually. The comment came after I suggested using video effects to alter the look of some shots, and they were really questioning criticism in general. It’s ‘art’ after all, and how can it be judged when it’s in the individual beholder’s eyes? Good question, and I had an answer.
pandora_2732043bEven the most objectively introspective seeker has to get outside perspective to clarify their vision – and it could be anyone, not just a mentor, who can give perspective that spurs a person to grow. Growing into one’s artistic practice is not a solitary journey, despite legend and lore to the contrary, and those with caring and wise teachers are the lucky ones! I could’ve used more of them as a student and am thankful to those I have now.

That’s not exactly how I responded in class, however.
Basically, I said that constructive criticism was the purpose of the school setting. Anyone is free to do their own work any way they want; close the studio door and paint and draw and make videos all you want! If you enter school, you are asking for judgement and feedback. Well, maybe not asking, but at the very least, being a student assumes one is open to learning. Passage through the academic wormhole requires listening to words one may not like to hear, as well as adjusting yourself to go in new and uncomfortable directions.

It is said that once a tree is pruned, it must always be pruned. Similarly, things once learned, can never ever be unlearned. I recall the heavy feeling I had coming home from my first semester of college, being slightly amazed and daunted by the shedding of youthful things. It is tempting to reject learning in order to keep the purity of ‘first vision’ intact. Another child’s destiny perhaps, this ship has sailed.

I am learning how to provide some of that feedback in the best way possible. I tell students that they don’t have to think or see like I do, but if I withhold my honest truth then I am cheating them. For better or worse, I have the most expertise (not necessarily the most talent) in my classroom, and that’s what I’m there to share.
You’re hearing me talk myself into it…. It takes more courage and confidence than I have on some days to let them know my real thoughts. They might not like me after they hear some of those. But am I here to be liked? I’m here to give what I have, like it or not.

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October 20, 2016 · 8:57 am

Effervescence

I love that word.

My favorite class is coming up: the critique. The viewing of the student’s video projects, the big ones. There are four a term and this is numero dos, the music video. It’s been so fun to see the favorite music videos they’ve posted in the discussion board along with their vision for their upcoming projects. Some MTV flashbacks.

I am consistently surprised by the work they do. Their weekly skills assignments do not really prepare me for how these very creatively open projects will play out. I usually don’t preview them myself and I wait in anticipation with the rest of the class.

Watching the 7 student’s pieces usually takes the entire 2 and a half hours, even though they’re 2  to 5-minutes long. I guess I’ll have to speed it up bit next time I get a full class, but this pace allows us to talk about each one without a rush.

In the sometimes tentative moments after each “The End”, someone will usually speak up without prompting. They know we’re looking for something we like about what we just watched. I worried how these would go at first, but it turns out people want to say good things. Hopefully it’s not too tall a stretch! Trust in the ability of people to be positive, and the things they notice start to be really meaningful and interesting. In a safe space, we  practice speaking and listening to each other talk about these videos as works of art.

Then we ask: how can it be better? It’s ok to make the assumption that it always can. I sometimes have to do more prompting because this is harder. This is learning to speak critically and kindly. Honest feedback, it’s sometimes called. I was heartened by a student in the first critique who let us know he wanted criticism, and it was delivered! Over time, the group dynamic gets more comfortable and the discussions roll, but I do wonder how to make it a little more edgy. Where to push and question and where to let it lie. My most memorable college art class was dominated by a sharp-tongued professor who we feared and occasionally hated. Also, highly respected. I don’t have to be that guy, but I’m working our way into a happy spot between sweet and sour.

For the most part, our class critiques are satisfying and occasionally enlightening exercises. After the last one, students were mingling after class in a way I hadn’t noticed before. Exciting stuff. I can’t wait for Tuesday night.

 

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October 9, 2016 · 9:18 pm

25 Sentences About Teaching

lonebeeHow much attention should I give to students? (One sentence! that’s one! Here comes another.) In a live class, every word is a kind of encouragement, to listen, to learn, to act, to react, talk and have a moment to understand. In the online portion of class, which is technically half, they’re on their own with the content, reading, discussioning, watching (hopefully) tutorials, practicing the skills. I’m not there for that. Sometimes during the interim, I think I should jump in with a word or video encouraging them, suggesting a next move, throw out some new ideas. I haven’t yet.  (Six sentences so far, not including the commentary.)

In class, there are lots of words, mostly spoken by me. Some words are designed to help  do the tasks, others are theoretical discussions, and some attempt to create a comfortable atmosphere conducive to learning. You’ll know that when you see it! The classroom can be exciting and focused, and disjointedly chaotic. From the drive to presenting something meaningful, great moments rise and then fall again, back to wondering what the heck is going on out there. At the end, it can be hard to tell what just happened. (up to 12!)

At least I was there. Online for the six days between meeting up, there are some messages, some questions, some sidenotes, and between those, a lot of wondering how they’re doing. They’re out making their works, doing the skills exercises, discussion boarding, quizzing. I used to be more active but I’m trying to let them be ‘among each other’ in those spaces, for the most part. My voice is pretty active in the classroom already. Creating active online spaces takes strategy and I am learning slowly. I’m afraid of asking too much, and afraid of not challenging them enough. Striking that balance has got to be the key to success, but how does one provide the right mix for the diverse bunch I see out there? (Just five more to go.)

I’d love to be there right when each student needed encouragement, a special tip, a fresh viewpoint or a little more motivation. I offer extra help, but few are taking me up on it. Call, Skype, email, and I will make time for you! I’m the care-giving type, and it’s slightly disappointing when the very flexible office hours are quiet. Is it intrusive to call them? I’m going to send out that mid-week message, next time. (Bonus sentence this week!)

 

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September 18, 2016 · 9:13 pm