Tag Archives: Magnet School

Adding Some Real World Experience. (With a little help from the community.)

Two years ago I was approached by a local artists group about making a documentary. The idea was to create a film using students and allowing them to control every aspect of the film. The group, The Association for Visual Arts (AVA), wanted to bring in several local filmmakers and let them work with the students to guide them through the creation process and, ultimately, to the first screening of their own movie.

Even the most well-intentioned group can’t just walk into a school and borrow some students. Since I have a series of media production classes and teach at a certain type of school, AVA called me to ask if I was interested. Of course I said, “Yes.” So we started with some meetings, had some more meetings and then, just as we were about to start, the whole thing fell apart. I can’t remember if it was funding or lack of interest from outside of the school or whatever. So a year later we started all over again. More meetings, more false starts and one more total shut-down. This time because the person at AVA who was heading up the project from their end changed jobs. I thought that would be the last I heard from AVA and, gladly, I was wrong.

Golden Grillz, The DVD.

Golden Grillz, The DVD. Cover Design: J. Colbert

The new person involved with the Education Outreach program at AVA had heard of the project and liked it. He decided to start all over again. And to shorten the story, we started pre-production with 13 students and two filmmakers. And me, the Project Coordinator. The kids worked on concept and decided to make a movie on “rap, rock, the individual and the group.” A movie about how the music we listen to impacts the way others see us and the way we see ourselves. It was called “Golden Grillz & Satan Likes Puppies.”

The movie was well received and was shown in several locations around town and a copy is on file at the Mayor’s office. Not a bad result for a group of first-timers. The results were actually far greater than we had hoped and it set the stage for what is happening today. The second documentary film is starting today. The first day is always the slowest but the AVA filmmakers know how to make it work and we have some good kids and I can’t wait to see what this year’s subject is going to be.

The best thing I see out of the students is a new sense of commitment and ownership. We are asking two days a week, two hours each time for almost four months. And the kids show up, they get excited about what they are doing and they take pride in the final project. It makes all the extra time worth it and it makes the whole thing fun.

So…nothing major here. No new educational processes, no major insights, nothing to change the world. Just ten or so kids making a movie and learning a little bit about going to work, dealing with adults and meeting deadlines. Stuff they need and stuff we neglect.

I’ll keep updating…


Wow…Where Does the Time Go?

I sort of forgot that I was a “blogger.”

I started this because I wanted to stretch myself as an educator and as a writer and because I was out of books to read. I thought that forcing myself to write on a regular basis was going to be a great exercise in…well…something. So I started a blog. Or web-log, if you prefer. I think I’m too old to hip stuff up by making contractions out of it. Anyway, I was going through some old files on my computer trying to give the thing a data enema and I came across an interesting bookmark. Turns out it was mine. I had all but forgotten my own web-log. Last time I was here was January 30, 2008. And as I sit here on May 1st of the same year I have to wonder: Where did the last 2 months go?

The world has apparently kept turning and, since I’ve had to start cutting the grass again, the seasons have kept changing but it has been such a blur that I can hardly remember any of it.

Let’s see…My son broke his elbow at school and had to have it reconstructed at the expense of my insurance company. It took 15 staples to close up the hole the doctor made in his arm and he has been in a cast for almost three weeks now. The pins used will stay in his arm until “they start to bother him.” Thanks Doc. The school’s response?  They are threatening to fail him because he missed too many days. You see, if a student in Tennessee misses more than 4 days, the school can fail him or her or force the student to make the days up in an after school program. And they wonder why we have so many drop-outs. Anyone have the name of a really good, really sleazy personal injury lawyer?

Gas has gone up to the point that I am starting to worry about getting to work. I have a pretty long commute. Long enough that I have to change my oil every six weeks. You do the math.

I read a story on the ABC News web site about a 14 year-old kid who snapped due to some bullying he was forced to endure. Young Brent Clark was tired of it and took a knife to school to deal with the bully. The bully was out of school that day and Brent went a little nuts and took his frustration out on a female classmate. He didn’t hurt her but he scared the crap out of her and let her go. The next morning his mom looked in his backpack and it was filled with the kind of stuff that kids think will help them kill all the kids the bug them. A gun, some knives and the ubiquitous duct tape. The parents took Brent to the police and they promptly arrested him and held him for months at a juvenile detention facility.

The reason this story got to me was that Brent says that he never intended to kill anyone. He just wanted to stir them up enough to call the police. When they arrived, Brent was going to rush out “shooting so the police would just shoot him and end it.” It wasn’t an attempted school murder rampage, it was an attempted suicide. It made me sad and angry. Something has broken in our perfect little society and I wish I knew what it was.

And lots more stuff happened along the way. And then I rediscovered my web-log. I gave it long critical look and did not like what I saw. Too disjointed and too technical. I’m going to revamp it. If I remember to.

So, to all ten of you who have actually been here, I will strive to show up more often. I might even finish the Video in the Classroom series. And I plan to talk about my experience at the Magnet Schools of America National Conference. My presentation was called “Golden Grillz & Satan Likes Puppies”.

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