I am that guy…are you?

You might also enjoy my other blog, They Never Taught Me That In School.

One of the most interesting things about blogging are the connections I have made.  From young teachers starting out asking for advice, to people from multi-million dollar companies asking to have my kids test a product…I will give you one guess as to which one occurs more.  Recently I posted my video that I will show the kids on the first day of school.  David Albrecht wrote asking some great questions about the video.  Never missing the opportunity to turn an email into a free blog post, here is a little more information about the video Dave!

The final video that prompted Dave’s questions is at the end of this post–feel free to skip to the end 🙂

So why do I show a “class commercial at the beginning of the year?

I have had a video for class the last six/seven (?) years. What follows is a bit of a history behind the video.  First to answer Dave’s questions, but also a place to simply document my process and reflect on it.  The video I show was not randomly thrown together, it is the culmination of a ridiculous amount of time and effort in which I learned a lot about the kids, and a whole lot more about myself.

First Video

The first video was created for a parent meeting.  I used computers to do “2.0” things the second I had the opportunity to get my kids on them.  That wasn’t many years ago…2006(?).  That year a parent supposedly reported me to the State Attorney General’s Office for child endangerment for letting her kid on the internet.  Yep…just seven years ago putting my kids on computers was considered C-R-A-Z-Y. I knew I had to do something, so the next year I had a meeting for parents describing what we would be doing.  I made the video for the parents to simply get them on my side.  Let me do my thing, and your kids will be awesome was the message.  The quotes came from an end of the year evaluation that I gave the kids the year before. I kid you not…mothers were crying by the end.  I played it at the end of the meeting–that is KEY.  At the beginning of the meeting their defenses were still up.  After talking about me and the year ahead for about 90 minutes I finished with the video.  I made the first video simply because I wanted to continue to push the limits with what we would be doing in class and needed parents on my side.  Almost everything I did…ok, everything I did back then was do it first, then ask permission.  This was before it was ok to do anything on the web…use youtube, blog, write on a wiki, etc.  Back then we did use coded name for each kid.

Second Video

The second video I made a few couple years later to not just show them how awesome their kid would be, but I wanted to set it up with questions in which they would have to answer yes and therefore subliminally want me to do my thing.  At the previous meeting 45 minutes were spent talking about internet safety, at this meeting only 30 minutes! At this meeting I also introduced letting the kids use their first name when they published on the web. It was still for parents’ eyes only.  I did not have to convince the kids to let me be innovative, but the parents needed convincing.  What they really needed most, was to be convinced that there was going to be someone behind their kid who they could trust, and who was going to love and keep their kid safe.  The opening questions, the quotes, the pre- and post- discussion all backed that up.  It was during one of the years  used this video–maybe the year I made it??–that I introduced teh kids using their first and last name when they published on the internet.  Again…there might have been some kids doing this, but at the time I did not know of one other full class doing this.  This was scary stuff, and the video was meant as a buffer to the fright.

Third Video

I used the second video two(?) years in a row.  I was comfortable using most of the same quotes because each year I received basically the same quotes on the student evaluations.  Also back then, I was on a computer in which the video would take 10+ hours to render! I switched to the third video after an awful year.  I had one single parent who would not let me do anything.  You have to realize that I was alone in my entire school system integrating technology and doing the nutty things that we did.  I cannot risk a parent saying anything to my admin or superintendent so I stopped doing many things.  I knew I would not have the support to back me up in a system in which consistency is key…not to mention the fact that many of the things we were doing were sort of “outlawed” then.  We could not access skype….but no one said you could not download it at home and bring it in on a flash drive 🙂  We could not access twitter.com, so we…you see where this is going…So because I was so disgusted with the year I made the third video without the quotes.  I simply was not feeling it going into the new year and parent meeting.  So I turned up the music to something more “in your face,” and used one single quote.  It was well received, but no mothers were crying at the end.  If you read my post “Breadcrumbs…”…well…looking back, I screwed up making that video.  I gave in to the one parent, and my system.  I did take the second video and re-write it for the kids and showed it to them during the first week.

The next year was really bad with parents and the system.  I cut out 50% of what made my class a special place.  For the next parent meeting I did not even show a video.  I just stuck to the basics of what we will do in class…which you have to realize is still so far out there when compared to regular classes.  “You don’t give any tests?”  “You are all project based?” Things got worse with the system and parents.  Please realize that I am trying to write in code…it sounds like I was under attack form many, but realize that all it takes is one single voice to call the superintendent and I am done, so I really toned it down. I hinted to how the year went in this post.

Fourth Video

For this year I felt the need to rebound somewhat and really try to convince the parents to let me go back to doing my thing and trust that it will not look anything like regular school, but in the end, their kids would be awesome. Last year I taught with my hands tied behind my back and I need to come out swinging.  I decided to go with some happier music, not really reflective, but catchy to suck folks in.  I also decided to go back into the vault and use footage from many years.  Again…subliminal stuff.  The idea being that I have been doing this for many years and kids turned out awesome.  In past meetings I focused just on the prior year, which might have made what I do look to new and shiny.  Again, you have to realize that doing anything on a computer other than researching and word processing is new to almost every kid and parent.  So I wanted to show history.  I was going to have to orally lead into it, it is not explicit in the video. I also did not focus on technology, what you see are active kids, working kids, smiling kids, crazy kids 😉 I was originally going to use the video in this post (you can see it below), but decided against it.

After making the fourth video, I thought to myself…I am a pretty good teacher and I need to stop hiding and always giving in and trying to do things secretly….yea right.  This is also the year in which we are being given our units and assessments–O’ I am so excited. I went from a high…to a low.   And then got back up.  I decide to come out and really hit the parents and be fierce like I teach my kids to be.  What I can do with the kids is awesome and I have proof.  So I decided to incorporate all the videos I made into one and just hit them with evidence for 10 straight minutes. The video opens with the questions to suck them in and say “hell yea that is the place I want my kid to be.” It then comes back with the short powerful quote from a student with some images.  So it is a bit of a hint of what the kids will be doing, just a hint.  I then included the fifth video in it so that they say this is the place I would want to be in, and then they tell their kid that they are lucky to be in my room because awesomeness will occur.  It is not clear from the videos in this section what the kids are doing, but it is clear that my kids lead with their chin up and are proud of what they do.  They are fierce kids.  At this point the adrenaline is pumping…and after 6 minutes that is enough.  I have to change the tone, and went back and used the end of the fourth video to suck in their hearts.  The quotes I realized after using them did not express what kind of class their kid will experience, but what kind of person I am.  That is key.  They must trust me.  Screw putting their kid into a class that does awesome stuff, they want to put their kid into a class with someone that is awesome.  Again, I am ok with using some old quotes because I know I can kids say similar things pretty much every year, and some years I handed out every evaluation for parents to read as proof.  I did make a big change to the video, I aimed it squarely at the kids.  This video is clearly made for kids.  I am hoping the parents view the video through the lens of their kid and that inner kid who just sat in rows and took multiple choice tests way back when gets excited.  If you happen to have seen it last week, I have changed the ending.  I realized that I had some lines still aimed at parents, and I changed a last picture. So here is the fifth video below, the one for the 2013-14 school year.

This year I hope to really have the video not only suck in parents, but kids as well.  I want them to walk out of my first class believing that they are coming back the next day to something special.  As a Yankee fan, when players are traded to the Yankees they always make a comment about the first time they put on their PInstripe uniform.  They talk about being transformed and feeling about being a part of something bigger, a part of a winning history that infects them and changes who they are and how they play.  That is what kids feel when they walk out after the first day.  They are walking out of a class that has a “winning tradition.”  They are walking into a class were hundreds of kids have done awesome things, and awesomeness is expected of them…and nothing less.   When they present I expect them to be fierce and walk to the front of the room with their chin-up.  Nothing less is expected of them.  They are walking into innovation, creativity, and independence.  They are to seize the opportunity and I expect no less.  I have aimed this one right at them because I want them to walk out saying “I want to be just like those kids…I can be just like those kids.”

Kids do not expect the unexpected in school.  They walk in expecting the same thing they experienced in the past.  But deep in their heart  they have not lost hope that this might be the year in which they will get the unexpected.  They all have hope that this might be the year in which they will feel awesome.  They all have hope that they will do something that will make a difference…something that matters…something that allows them to discover something inside of themselves that they did not know previously existed.   They all have hope that I might be the guy that will lead them there.

I made the video to let them know that I am that guy…and I expect nothing less from myself this year.

Each year we go into school with a set of expectations for the kids…what expectations do you have for yourself?

11/22/14 EDIT

Here is my commercial for the 2014-15 school year

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