As many of you know, I was school teacher before I got into documentary work. My first year teaching (2004), was “rough” to say the least. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it, not even a good student teaching experience. There is something about being alone and in charge of 30+ kids, (repeated 5 times a day for 180+ days a year) that makes you realize just how much you are out of control most of the time. I remember moments of good teaching. . . and making connections with kids that needed a listening ear, but mostly I remember endless hours of preparing lessons, the lack of sleep, and the anxiety. It got better with time, but it was honestly the toughest year of my life.
Fast forward to 2016 and here I am working on documenting the first year teaching experiences of 4 teachers in Kansas. Crazy huh!?
As part of our ongoing “A Walk in My Shoes” series we decided to record the stories of a handful of teachers starting their careers (elementary and secondary). The primary goal of the film is to help our prospective teachers get a realistic glimpse of what teaching is like in 2016 in Kansas. The secondary goal is to help a diverse audience gain a better appreciation for teaching. And third, how the internal and external support first year teachers receive determine their success as well as their students.
So here is the concept: 4 first year teachers across Kansas document themselves weekly in the form of video journals. Each is armed with a handheld camcorder, and is asked to record small moments throughout their day. This could be their thoughts as they drive to work, late night planning sessions, or their first phone calls home to parents.
I gather the footage from them weekly and begin to edit together a narrative of their combined experiences. In addition I will visit each of their schools 4 or 5 times throughout the year to gather footage of them teaching as well as reflective thoughts about where they are now. By the time we hit May of 2017 we may have a gathered a few more terabytes of footage than we can use, but we will have a full a very realistic feel for what these incredible teachers have been through.
It’s only been a week and half and footage we have received so far has been incredible. Some of our teachers have already experienced a bit of shock and fear, others the joy of lessons gone well. All seem to be running on adrenaline even if they are a bit sleep deprived!
Listening to their video journals so far, I have forgotten just how much your life experiences change and grow as you take ownership of your classroom, and kids that you learn to love. I look forward to watching their growth throughout the year. It’s going to be a wild ride, but having been through that same experience I can testify that it will make them stronger, and better prepared, every week they return. Check back again for an update soon 🙂