Teaching is by far the most rewarding profession I have experienced but it is also the most frustrating at times.
I have found that each summer I spend a lot of time working to tune up my program to better serve my students, run more efficiently for me, and provide content for our viewers that is not only entertaining but of the highest quality possible. This summer I have had a TON of time to think about my program and what I want it to be and the steps to get there. I have also had enough inspiration and ideas to last for a couple of years.
I am writing this month’s article while I watch my son swim at the indoor pool at our hotel in High Point, North Carolina. We are closing out a two week road trip up the East coast where we hopped from town to town to catch baseball games. Almost 2,000 miles of driving over 12 days has allowed me to really assess where I am as a teacher and where my program is along with ways to get my program to where I want it to be. Add that time with the inspiration of seeing major league video productions and minor league promotions, I have a ton of things that I am going to put into place as soon as I get back to the classroom.
The most important thing that I have taken away from this trip is to take a trip. Go places and see things you have never seen. Google Maps and other GPS services allow us to take the road less traveled and see things we didn’t know existed. I plan to do that this year. I plan to leave my classroom and see other classes, collegiate programs, and sit in on more professional broadcasts. It is far too easy to get caught in the classroom and look up and 3 or 4 years have gone by and we have had no outside influence to keep us up to date on the latest trend or aware of changes in the industry.
Another takeaway from the trip is to allow the students create the engagement points opposed to me forcing them. We went to Five major league games and Five minor league games and the differences between the games was tremendous but not in the ways you would think. I am by no means a curmudgeon that thinks things were always better in the past but I really do miss being able to go to a game and watch the game. Minor league games have always been known for outlandish promotions (such as the one to the right) but those promotions have flooded the major league games as well. From the Beat the Freeze in Atlanta to the many incarnations of t-shirt cannons, and three card monte games, these promotions have taken over the baseball experience. The exception to the rule was Boston. (DISCLAIMER: A trip to Fenway was a bucket list item for me so this may be a little jaded) In Boston the break between innings had promotional content but the majority of their entertainment was to show fans on the camera. Simple and easy to execute yet engaging and rewarding. That is my plan for my program. This year my plan is to focus on the simple to execute rewarding elements of sports production and make sure the students get the instant satisfaction needed to stay engaged.
I also realized that I have been pushing my students too hard to create long form products when in reality there are many more uses for short form products. My previous thought process was that E60 and 30 for 30 were the biggest thing outside of live sports so I should prepare my students to be able to do those things. The problem is those stories aren’t easily found or produced in high school sports so I got a lot of videos without a real story and I got frustrated because I couldn’t use them in our shows. During this trip, I realized that yes, the long form products are great and engaging but short form products are easier to produce and can be used more. So this year, I plan to have my students do 60 second documentaries, new show opens daily, and different promotional pieces that we can use in our newscasts and our live events. Again, these things are going to play on my student’s need for instant gratification and my attempt to engage them more in the daily grind of a production facility.
Finally, one of the ideas that I took from the trip that has made me completely reset my plan for this year is the idea of making everything work together. If you have the chance to catch a game at Fenway Park, you must pay attention to how they use the video board during the games. The content on the video board looks like it belongs in the park. The background has the well known olive green color and the graphics look like they belong on the manual scoreboard below the “Monstah.” They entire video experience was based around the idea that is belongs. That is my goal for this year for my students. Make their entire experience a part of an integrated plan that allows them to learn and experience the field I love so much.
We return to school on July 31st and when the students arrive, they will be walking into a production environment as close to the real thing as I can give them.
Tom White is a video production teacher at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers. GA. Tom is also the director of the Sports Broadcast Institute, which is One of Five Georgia Governor’s Innovation in Education award winning programs and the NFHS Network Best Overall Program. The Sports Broadcast Institute works to produce live broadcasts, newscasts, sports documentaries and more for the Three schools, Rockdale Co, Salem, and Heritage High schools, that the career academy serves. Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.