Thursday, September 16, 2010

guess how many hours the credits took

Well, I can't actually tell you how many hours the credits took, but I can tell you it was MANY MANY MANY more than I would have imagined. First of all there was making sure we had the names of everyone who we needed to thank--days and weeks on that, checking spelling, locating who to credit for songs, and getting their website addresses. Then there was our first attempt at designing a nice way to show them on the screen. There are certain traditions: some categories get a screen of their own, some get larger type than others. There are still a lot of possible variations. We wanted to thank everyone who gave us any kind of help (up to the cut-off date of when we had to have the credits finished). Oh gee, I hope we got them all! We also wanted to work with two pieces of music, and be done with the credits when the music finished. That meant some names were going to be pretty small. Work, rework, work, rework: days. It was looking pretty good when I remembered a song we hadn't credited! Last minute email to Doug Goodkin, phone call to Ashley Bryan in Maine (87 years old: such a nice man!!) rework again. Show it to Kim Aubry at ZAP who tells us we are out of broadcast framing for our most tightly packed page. AGH! Back to the drawing board, come up with a new design. Kim writes back that we might want to do it differently because of interlacing. Interlacing is a video issue that didn't cross our minds because Tom works on digital screens. Interlacing sometimes makes small words bouncy and blurry. Kim suggests we consider rolling credits. We spend hours looking at all the videos in our possession to see how other people have done it. No consensus. Some are way worse than ours, some better but done so differently it is hard to apply them to our situation. Tom decides he has to actually create rolling credits so we can compare. This involves using a new program that he doesn't know well (this means several trips past GO without collecting $200). We look at the new version...and there are pros and cons. Different screens give us different impressions. Are they easier to read? Size-wise yes, but they go by too fast. Tom's program doesn't seem to allow them to go slower.

We finally decide we like the original design with static pages better. We tell Kim. The next day Tom has second thoughts. OY!

To find out what we ended up with you'll have to wait til the end of the film :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the same page with the Dalai Lama

I noticed in the SF Chronicle that the Dalai Lama is giving $50,000 to the University of Wisconsin's Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. They will use it to see if positive emotions such as kindness and compassion help a person's brain be more resilient to life's hard knocks. While the Dalai Lama is thinking about meditation, and its effects on well being, I immediately thought of the more active work that can be done in school to foster kindness and compassion. There are so many times in a day when opportunities arise, from taking care of a school pet, to looking at a conflict from the other person's perspective. One of the parts of being in a school where all the ages have daily interactions that I love is how it allows older children to be involved in the lives of younger ones. On our playground one often sees a younger child turning to an older one for help. When younger ones join a mixed age game, more often than not the older students are encouraging and tone the game down to work for the younger ones. And when that doesn't happen, or a younger child feels unfairly treated, it can very quickly come to the attention of an adult who knows the older child, and can bring the parties together--taking the time to build understanding, and compassion. This requires Time: when children are playing and talking with each other, involved in activities together. Unstructured time is an important part of the mix, as well as a common understanding that working with "feelings' is part of what happens at school. i understand the Dalai Lama's focus on meditation, but I hope the folks in Wisconsin also study other pieces of what makes for healthy children's minds. I'd like that to include the difference that creative outlets make and the presence of situations where children can learn how to be kind and compassionate.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Turning around "reorganizing"

I "attended" a Teachers Letters to Obama web roundtable called Turn Around This Policy,a few days ago. First of all I am still pretty amazed by how these technologies bring people together. 42 of us from all across the country were listening to speakers, seeing their slides, and exchanging our reactions at the same time. The "discussion space" could have held 100, but if the speed that the comments of 42 is any indication, I would never have caught the comments if a hundred had been typing their thoughts. So while I would wish more people had been present, it was a good number for interacting.

The four speakers each had been affected by school "reorganization' in one way or another. Chuck Olnyck from LA's Fremont High, a school with 4,600 students(the first mistake) was labeled failing and teachers made to reapply for their jobs. Chuck refused, and now is looking in from the outside at what the results have been. As far as he can see it's mainly disruption of some promising small schools within this monster that were making the kinds of changes most likely to turn the school around. There will be more first time teachers. Some might view that as a positive, but without good support those new teachers may join the large ranks of those who quit after 3 years.

Nikki Barnes teaches at a KIPP middle school charter that has a very high rate of college acceptance for its students. She has been there 12 years, but many of the teachers around her have only stayed for their 2 year Teach For America contract. They put their all out for those two years, but Nikki questions this strategy of burning through young idealistic teachers, as well as wondering about the definition of success in KIPP and other schools. High results on standardized tests are seen as basic. More is demanded than that, but still schooling sounds very limited to what will look good on a college resume. Some of the practices she described dismayed me, but I was impressed by Nikki's objectivity. She does not dismiss KIPP, and will continue to teach there, but see the faults. Is there a way to incorporate some of the positive student-centered KIPP practices into other settings?

Sabrina Stevens Shupe has a blog called Failing Schools. Her explanation of how labeling a school as failing increases the likelihood it will get worse, was very persuasive. I hope she is reaching policy makers!

The last speakers were three teachers from Detroit who are starting a teacher led elementary school. The school is a three year experiment, which all who commented felt was too short a period. Perhaps they can negotiate a longer trial, and broader measurements of success. Right now it is limited to the rate that they raise test scores. Whatever the shortcomings, the fact that teachers are taking (and sharing) leadership is big. They are getting some of the support they will need in the form of planning time. I hope we can get updates as to how they are doing, and if I do, I will report about it.

This roundtable was just one more reminder of how much is going on in education right now--positive and negative. Helping to "unleash the positive" is my goal!