Capturing the Citizen Teacher Experience: Part 2

Editor’s note: This is the second monthly installment in a series by Citizen Teacher and Fidelity Risk Manager Albert Terc. Albert is halfway through a semester of teaching a documentary film-making apprenticeship in New Jersey. As they say, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." That has been my motto as my community and much of the east coast deal with the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. The storm was definitely an unexpected setback for the apprenticeship. Making up for lost time will be a challenge, but I am confident that the students' enthusiasm for the topic will pull us through to a great final product.

My first time in front of the kids I was pretty nervous. I thought, "I'm in a room full of boisterous middle school students. Oh no. What do I do?" Before I started the apprenticeship, as I mentioned last month, I was a little worried about being able to keep everyone focused and on the same page. At first that was a challenge, but I am becoming more and more comfortable at the front of the classroom. I have developed a new level of confidence. Picking up on the kids' personalities and seeing their enthusiasm for the topic has helped a lot with that.

The students have selected nutrition and school lunches as the topic for their film. Their excitement and interest have allowed us to venture beyond the curriculum, and bring in more resources to add to the experience. We showed them a popular YouTube video created by high school students called We Are Hungry.

The students drew ideas from the film and were able to see how the work they are doing within their school connects to a larger issue that students across the country care about. That's part of the fun, tying everything together for the kids and helping them make real-world connections.

In the few weeks that I've been working with the kids I've already seen several of them come to life. One young lady who was shy and unsure at first, surprised me with her leadership. When we broke out into groups to practice the roles for the filming, she was one of the first to volunteer to be an interviewer. It made me realize that the material is really sinking in and I was so pleased to see her coming out of her shell.

Much of the apprenticeship's success is thanks to the excellent team I teach with. I am fortunate to be paired up with Jackson Jayarai from Cognizant who has experience working with this age group. I feed off his energy and comfort level and am growing into this role from working with him.

Our Teaching Fellow who supports us in the classroom, Jaleesa Jones, is excellent at keeping the kids focused and on the same page. She helps remind the students that we aren't teachers. We are citizens here to help them learn new skills that will benefit them down the road. I have to give teachers a lot credit. It's not an easy job!

By next month, my students will already be filming. Each student will have a role-- director, interviewer, editor, etc. Despite our setbacks and small challenges along the way, I am confident that we will put together a great documentary film to present at the WOW!. I am looking forward to seeing what these bright students come up with.

I have realized that these kids definitely want to learn, regardless of their experiences. As long as the material is fun and engaging, they'll catch on and run with it. That's what my students have done and I am very proud of them so far.