Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The yearbook deadline was the next day. I should have left it to the students, but I picked up the good camera and went out to the courtyard to get pictures of three more seniors to fill out a page layout. A tall boy stopped me to ask if he could get a yearbook portrait taken. I told him those were done last fall but offered him a way to get into the book. All he had to do was answer a question about what he would remember from high school. I snapped his picture.

Two weeks later this same boy was shot getting off a bus. He’s still in the hospital with one bullet in his arm and one in his abdomen. He’s out of danger now but will need time to recuperate.

Of course word spread throughout the high school. The same day I first heard the news one of my students told me this boy was sprayed with ten bullets (not true).

From the start this boy was labeled a “problem” student. He created problems. He was a problem. He couldn’t focus in class and most days he was disruptive. He disappeared from school for long stretches of time. Even as a freshman he already had a parole officer.

As a freshman he was shorter than me. He was shorter than most of his classmates and took on a role typical of “the little guy.” He was the joker. Starved for attention, he wasn’t the angry thug. He was thug lite, quick with a smile and wanting to get other people to smile.

He started 10th grade taller than me. He’d stop by my room sometimes to visit, but soon after I stopped seeing him. I wasn’t certain whether he was still registered at our school. Other students needed my attention. I had other students to worry about as I had worried about him.

When he was my student I wondered what the future had in store for him? Would he mature and be disciplined enough for the job market? Would his math and reading skills improve enough? Or would he be swallowed up by life on the streets. I have other students now and I ask myself the same question: What future do they see for themselves? I’ve never gotten an answer to that question.

Another teacher was talking about the newspaper article she read about the shooting that left our student in the hospital. She couldn’t get over the newspaper calling him an “18-year-old man.” The truth is none of us had ever thought of him as a “man.”

Old enough to vote. Old enough to go into the military. Old enough to get shot walking out of a bus. And in my eyes still just a boy.


I always start each year with the same question: Why go to school? After we get through the obvious answers (“Because my mom makes me go.”) the conversation invariably heads toward: What do you need to learn? Once again we slog through the obvious of reading, writing and basic math.

So what should kids learn in order to lead a full, rich life? What should they learn in order to succeed in our competitive world?

Why should a student do a research project about the socio-economic factors that led to the Harlem Renaissance? I could talk about young people learning to appreciate the arts, learning about cultures and communities, and understanding the forces of history. But how far would that take me with those who want to quantify education and boil it down to assessments and bottom lines?

The answer I lean toward is: You need to learn how to learn.

What are the steps in writing a report about the founding of the California Missions? You find information. You process that information, synthesizing the important points. You communicate your version of the information and put it in the form of a deliverable (essay, presentation, poster).

Interestingly, the above describes the steps of Information Processing: Input; Processing; Output; Storage. And in life, these are the steps a reasonable person uses when searching for a job, researching mortgage rates, choosing a school for their children, planning a vacation or buying an expensive new outfit.

What’s the point in teaching a kid how to use a current computer application? We need to teach them how to approach computers and applications, how to figure out the functions and comfortably use the Help Menu. On computers or off, we need to teach students to solve problems for themselves.

It’s one of those teach-a-man-to-fish things. Five years from now that young person is going to be in a job with a new device in hand that has a different interface and an unfamiliar computer application. Margaret Mead said it well:¬† “The time has come when we must teach our children what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.”

Beyond that, what are the skills that employers need? And is it possible for high schools to help students develop those skills? (Coming up soon)

When everyone’s favorite hip hop dancer took the stage at our school talent show dozens of students held up their cell phones to shoot it.

How many kids today can connect the dots? Do they understand how it is we can have TV shows like “Survivor” or “The Real World” while 25 years ago these would have been impossible? Twenty-five years ago film and video cameras were bulky, expensive and required trained cinematographers behind each lens. Today it’s possible to plant a few dozen cameras all around a house and record everything.

Why is the Zapruder film of the JFK Assassination so important?

A Dallas businessman named Abraham Zapruder purchased a Bell & Howell Zoomatic 8MM film camera. He had a vantage point in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963 so that his camera was pointed at President Kennedy’s limousine as shots rang out. It was less than 27 seconds of footage and it became exhibit 885 in the Warren Commission Report on the Kennedy Assassination.

Where were the network cameras? Could anyone imagine a presidential visit today without multiple camera crews? A president traveling through the streets of a major American city today — that footage would be shown live on all local stations. And of course these days various cable news networks would also be recording.

Twelve-year-old kids today have already posted their dumb skateboard tricks on YouTube. Can they understand that film cameras were once so bulky and so expensive that local TV stations weren’t able to follow a presidential motorcade? A major network might set up cameras in a civic hall where the president would speak later in the day. But the mobility of a motorcade was too difficult at that time.

Do kids today understand that without camcorders¬† Rodney King would have been just another black man complaining about police brutality. His story wouldn’t have even made it to page 28 in a local newspaper. But a man named George Holliday happened to have a video camera nearby. Holliday’s footage of police beating King left its mark on history, leading to a court case followed by riots.

Police have changed the way they behave because of the ubiquity of cameras. We have all changed.