In the Summer of 2015, I was beyond excited for what we were about to do.
We were about to take over the world and make some real noise. I was heading into my 4th year teaching and thought I had it all figured out. I was going to create a program that would be so exciting students would work and not even know it.
By September, the shine was gone and the core was showing and the realization that I could only do so much hit. The original plan was that students would in groups and and each Three weeks I would be swimming in a sea of sports related content. The groups were to rotate between commercial production, feature production, live production, and marketing/graphics. After the first rotation, I had about half of the content assigned submitted. I knew there were problems and I tried to address them in order to make it work. After the second 3 week rotation, I knew the idea was on life support. The student groups were not working. Each group had a couple of students that wanted to do the work and did but they had to do it while dragging around the deadweight of the group. By October, the group framework was out the window. The assignments became individual work pieces. As I prepared for the launch of the new program, I penned this article which demonstrates my naivete better that I could describe.
As I look back through 2 years of the program, it is not all gloom and doom but instead it is the opposite. As we headed into year Three, I moved into a new classroom/lab space that has a great newsroom, production rooms, and a lecture/meeting area. We have also received some great recognition in the first Two years including the NFHS Network Broadcast Program of the Year. The first two years of the program have taught me a lot about resilience and fighting the good fight.
This year, the course structure is extremely different from the launch in 2015. Students still work as individuals. This allows me to customize the work for each student and play to their passions. The workload for the students is actually much higher than in the past but they don’t realize it because the deadlines are tighter and the projects are personal.
Each student must work individually on everything except the newscasts (weekly during semester 1 and daily in semester 2). The products are to be used to bolster our newscasts and live broadcasts, which we will get to later.
Throughout the year, each student will produce a total of Eight :90 news packages (4/semester). These news packages must be preapproved prior to production. This makes the students interact with me and learn how to communicate their ideas in a professional manner and learn to handle hearing the word “NO.” I do not give the students assigned topics because I want them to learn to research and find topics. For some this is easy but for others, it is not. I have to say no a lot in the beginning as students try to identify what sports news is. I have received some interesting topic ideas including covering a BBQ festival or a debate team. I have had to explain that just because it says “team” doesn’t make it a sport.
Students also have to produce commercials as a part of the program. This year they will have to create Two :30 and Two :60 commercials. I do give some parameters related to the commercials. I want to drive home interaction with coaches and other adults in a professional environment. The :30 commercial has to be about one of the sports teams participating at that time and the :60 must be to market a live event, newscasts, the Sports Broadcast Institute, or the Rockdale Career Academy. The strategy there is to give students the opportunity to work inside the building for the :60 since everything else they do is done outside of class time and outside of our building. (We have no sports at our facility. All of the sports are at the home schools)
The students must also create Two 5 to 7 minute long features throughout the school year. These features are to focus on a coach, player, game, etc. The hope is the students will learn to develop story ideas through the full form. I have had some interesting ideas and projects in the past including Mic’d up feature on coaches, in depth interviews with players and their families, as well as some videos that I still not sure what was going on. The biggest example of that was the Ninja Turtle playing tennis. The features are hard because the students have to learn to breakdown a story into small chunks then retell that story in the visual medium. As a part of this process, I require the students to submit a link to a feature that they used to model their product after. This forces them to watch content at a much deeper level and analyze what they see.
Those are the major video products but there are a lot of professionalism projects they must do as well. I insist that the students create and maintain an up to date resume and online portfolio. They must update each at least once per month and report what they update.
The biggest addition to the program since we launched is daily scripts. Each day, each student must compose a 30 second sports based news script prior to their arrival to class. This is very important to me as I try to bridge the reading and writing gap with my students. I have students who are reading on unimaginably low lexile levels. I believe this is going to be a great way to get the students to read and write consistently enough to show growth. Reading is a discipline that is not practiced with our students enough and the results are showing.
This year our plan for live broadcasts has changed greatly. In the past, our main focus (read: funding source) was coaching footage. We contracted with the teams to produce their coaching footage. The stream was a byproduct. Now we are focusing on creating a “professional” broadcast only. This has a lot of great elements including real replay and being able to focus on the athletes a little more. The only problem is that we cut our funding source completely. Now I am working with our sports marketing students to create sponsorship packages and hitting the streets trying to sell advertising. In the long run, we will be fine but as with any change, the first steps are the hardest.
We are a couple of weeks into the school year and it already feels like we are up and running at a great pace. I am excited to see what happens in the next 8 months and ready to celebrate the student wins!