The Moments That Make Us (part 1)

I have been training for a half-marathon in April and as my runs get longer and longer I get a lot of time for introspection. As teaching is life, most of my thoughts turn to the various moments over my life that have made me the educator that I am. Today’s post is titled: You Should Have Just Made A Poster.

It is my Junior year in HS and I am taking US History II. We are learning about WWI and my group has been assigned the task of explaining the events that started the war, specifically the assassination of Archduke Fernidand. Being a non-traditionalist, I convince my group members that we should film a news broadcast that include a breaking news segment about the assassination. We decide to include other things that are going on at the time including a sports report, other news that occurred that day, and even a commercial for Hershey’s chocolate (with sound effects!). Now, this might not sound impressive for 2018, but this was 1995. No one had video editing equipment. We used my family’s video recorder (that was so large it sat on your shoulder) and had to film everything in order because there was no way to edit clips together. In our main segment, we cut “live” to the back streets of Sarajevo (area behind an elementary school) where the locals (members of my HS fencing team) were chasing down the assassin (played by the team captain because he looked the oldest). For the commercials, my parents did the voice overs and sound effects off camera while my group sat at the “news desk” (my kitchen table).

It was raw, but it covered everything the teacher asked. We explained the details based on our research, discussed other noteworthy news of the time, and referenced information from class. When the day came to present to the class, I had to hunt down one of the 3 TVs that were on a cart that had a working VCR machine because the teacher had no clue where they were in the school. We show the broadcast to the class and we got a “C.” The only comment we received was “You should have just done a poster.” I was devastated. Mostly because I was one of those kids who never got less than an A, but also because I was being punished for being creative.

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 8 so when moments like this happened to me I was quick to file them into my “things I will never do to my students” folder in my brain. I never almost never squash my students’ desires to be creative. Usually, I criticize them for not being more creative and setting the bar higher for themselves. Maybe my video didn’t cover the material well, or maybe it was a little too unpolished, but I didn’t get that as my feedback. The teacher had set his expectations for the project so low that, when a group exceeded them, he didn’t know what to do.

As educators, we need to set our expectations high for our students and let them rise to the challenge. Some will, some won’t. No matter what, we are showing them that we expect more and they should expect more from themselves. And those that do will be that much better because of it.


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