The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I'm pleased to report that, at least once before I give up teaching, I've experienced the students stage a mass walk-out.
My Media class have been filming footage to create a horror film cinema trailer.
In clunky, unwieldy groups of eight kids. They had five hours to film all the footage they needed.
This concept passed a few individuals by, and after waiting two months for Sarcastic Media Guy to put the film onto CD, another month for Sarcastic Network Guy to transfer the mpeg files onto a network drive, and another month beyond that to book the only room in which there's a video editing suite, Hasan's group were horrified to discover they're forced to make a horror film out of a dodgy wobbly thirty minute clip of a house in the distance.

Of course, it would count as a ridiculously high expectation for their teacher to be trained on the video editing software, or even to have access to a handbook or instructional manual, so we're learning on the job.

We have four hours in which to create trailers, the first was spent simply playing with the software, trying to discover what it can do.
Sounds logical - in fact that's how most people learn to use any software - but most people end up fiddling, tweaking and playing for far more than four hours.

Fifty five minutes into the first period Cash worked out how to open the files we wanted to edit.
Thirty minutes into the second period before Cory managed to uncover the trick of trimming any clips.

It can quite respectably be called one of the greatest shambles of my teaching career.

And Sarcastic Network Guy has lost the best group's work. All of it.

He didn't keep a copy - threw the disc away.

When we plead with him to try to open up the corrupted files he's messed up, he snorts and says it's 'your problem'.
There were tears. Recriminations. More tears.

This is 20% of their Media GCSE.

Two lessons of despair and tears. Eventually, I asked them to consider the worst case scenario. Every approach to Sarcastic Network Guy had been rebuffed. I'd gone through the appropriate bullying channels hierarchy of comaplaints and requests for assistance.

Nobody really understood what I was saying as soon as I hit those magic words 'mpeg file'. Eyes glaze, and polite memos are duly issued.

Sarcastic Network Guy made sarcastic promises, and each day the promises fail to materialise into something workable. Worst case scenario: this group - the one with the most detailed footage - would have to use someone else's clips in their video.

Cardinal rule of education: things must be made fair. This patently is not fair.

Although the victimisation could at best be called randomly pointless, it certainly is not fair.
Rick's shoulders slumped, but he started trying to get on with it, checking the tawdry ill judged footage saved by the other groups. Jessica cried, again, head down on the keyboard.
Amy rolled her eyes, and argued.

But Leo just stopped. "I'm not doing it."

The others' ears pricked up.

"I'm not having it. It isn't fair, and I'm not doing it.

"I'm not staying here another second. I'm going and I'm going now."

They downed tools, their expressions betraying that they almost didn't believe their own actions even as they took them, and stood.

Seeing the determination on their faces, understanding that all normal channels had failed, I asked them - if they were determined to do this - to bear one thing in mind: go to the top.
If you're going to strike and walk out, do it via the head's office. Put that argumentative eloquence to some use.

Grim nods all around. And with that they walked out and disappeared.

One working day later, the files appear.

People power.