So one of my colleagues and I hatched a really ambitious and interesting plan a few weeks ago.
I asked her to utilize my protocol cards with her Seniors and have them record the resulting interactions.
They did. It was epic.
The other day we spent almost two hours after school watching and labeling the footage.
Some of it was, well, awful. Awful enough to qualify for a "What Not To Do" segment.
Some were impressive discussions, but the protocol wasn't particularly apparent.
A few were surprisingly good. As in, better than anticipated based on the previous performance of the group members. That was awesome.
We renamed each file as a tag for later use.
We also ran into some unanticipated issues.
One, we aren't quite sure what software to use to edit all this footage together most easily.
We thought about We Video. Actually, she did, I've never used it.
We thought about EdPuzzle, until we found that it doesn't let us edit together multiple videos.
Another major issue was background noise. Some of the audio is really really hard to hear.
We tried to turn up the volume and brainstormed about how we might improve the audio.
Then, we kind of gave up, for the moment, anyway. We ran out of ideas. It was getting late and neither of us are quite tech savvy enough to just figure it out on the spur of the moment.
Yesterday, I had a brainstorm.
Our school has an amazing media program that includes a school radio station and a green room for video recording.
A handful of our students recently traveled to the East Coast for a school media competition.
The program and several of its members got awards or honorable mentions.
One student, in particular, has really dedicated himself to the media program.
So I thought, I'll ask him for help. (Let's call him Drew).
I ran into Drew in the hall between classes.
I explained the issue briefly, and Drew gave me two choices.
He said we could either use some software to reduce the background noise...or we could re-record the footage some place more quiet.
I told him the latter was impossible.
By this time, most of the passing period had elapsed and Drew asked me for a pass to his next class.
He followed me back to my classroom around the corner and explained that the teacher of his next class won't cut him any slack because she thinks he gets away with everything.
I asked him why.
He said "because I usually do get what I want if I talk to some people."
I said, "Ok, that seems reasonable. What else?"
By this time, we were in my room, so there was no student audience for our conversation (just my student teacher working at a computer in the corner).
He just looked at me and kind of shrugged.
I broke first. I said, "Drew, maybe the way you present yourself gives the wrong impression."
He smiled uncertainly.
I continued, "Maybe the constant hat wearing, the sagging pants, the tardiness, don't make the greatest impression."
"There is nothing wrong with your swag, but some people might interpret it in a negative way."
Drew cocked his head and said "Yeah, I guess so."
I continued "Many people have a idea of how people should look and act if they take themselves seriously. It might be that some of your teachers are misreading your style as you not thinking their classes matter. As you not taking them or yourself seriously enough."
"Yeah, that's true." he said.
I turned to get the passes off of my desk and said "Don't get me wrong. Do you. I am not saying there is anything wrong or bad about your style choices. There's not. Just that as you get to college and job interviews, you need to be conscious of the impression you might inadvertently make."
I asked him, "Do your teachers wear suits to work?"
He said, "No, not really."
"What about when they interviewed to get a teaching job? What did they wear?"
"A suit, " we both said simultaneously. He grinned in a way that made me think maybe he got the point.
As I turned back, I saw Drew surreptitiously pulling up his pants. And I knew he got it.
It took a lot of effort for me not to smirk at that moment. My student teacher totally smirked. Thankfully Drew had his back to her.
I finished writing the pass and handed it to Drew.
He kind of just stared at me for a second, then he said "Thanks, Ms. Hirsch."
I made him promise to go see my teacher partner in crime to discuss audio editing as he headed out the door.
There are two good things here.
We are stretching ourselves as teachers to try something new, authentic, and maybe even innovative.
And I got a chance to tell a kid a little unvarnished truth...and he maybe heard me a little.
Even if we never really figure out how to use that footage, we learned a lot from collaborating to get it and we even asked a student to be our teacher.
Even if Drew continues to saunter around with his pants nearer his knees than his waist and a hat propped at a cocky angle on his head, for a minute he thought a little differently, a little less self-centeredly about how he presents himself.
I often think the world would be a better place if we respected our teenagers enough to be brutally honest with them more often.
I know the world would be a better place if teachers and students got to collaborate in meaningful ways more often.