Last year I was the new kid in school for the first time since I started teaching in 2011.
I had experience as a teacher and a limited amount of experience with my new school but I was certainly the new kid. When the school year started, I was tucked away in what was once a conference room adjacent to the media center while a new building was being built. New traditions to learn. New challenges that come from being in a “traditional” high school as opposed to a career academy. Moving from a suburban area with very little in terms of roots for families and school relationships to a small rural town where everyone is related to everyone and most people who live in the county have only lived in the county. I had a lot to learn.
I came into the new school as a very decorated teacher. A year prior, I received teacher of the year honors for my school and our program was the national program of the year for the NFHS Network. I had a ton of relationships to call on to help me stay afloat in the classroom as I tried to do different things to engage students. I also 6 weeks into the new school walked into my principal’s office and said: “I think I am pretty good at teaching but I don’t know what I am doing with these kids.” At which point she opened the roster for my problem classes, laughed and retorted “You lost a bet.” I learned how to teach despite a large number of my students not caring about the course, grades, breathing or anything else for that matter.
All those things considered along with moving into another new space in the middle of the first semester, building a studio, purchasing, receiving, inventorying new equipment, it was a great year. We produced over 120 newscasts and over 130 live sports broadcasts. We received a ton of support from the community via social media and brought home a couple of awards from the NFHS Network. A colleague called us the “Rookies of the year” for bringing home the “Best New Program” honor and I called us lucky for bringing home the best highlight - how often does a 5’6’’ guard dunk!
Now that the school year has started, I have a new concern… how do I follow last year? What can I do to continue to build the program and take it to new heights?
Let’s start with my biggest dilemma... I had two students who were always willing and ready to go film. They literally filmed upwards of 100 events last year and were rockstars in the classroom. One transferred to an adjacent county and the other is too embarrassed to speak to me because he ditched me at graduation last year - I am working on his adulting skills because I have emailed him to come see me! I have some new students who are interested but there is a lot of training to come for those guys. They are freshmen so I am looking to invest in the future!
My classes are a struggle too. I have three classes. My first period is an introduction to tv production class that had over 20 people but has since dropped to the lower teens… and the kids that are leaving are the ones with the most potential! I was excited about one young lady in particular whose mother told me during open house that she would never speak but she rocked in front of a camera with a teleprompter. My other classes are the opposite. My principals and concepts of animation course has six students… all guys. My advanced TV production has 4 students… all guys. Imagine how hard it is going to be to create a commercial with only 5 people (HELLO Theatre/Drama Teacher…)
My goals this year are simple. Continue to teach the kids and put them in tough spots so they can find their inner strength. Continue to find ways to maximize what we do with what we have and most importantly for me it so fight the sophomore slump. This year is going to be great but I have to show it’s greatness against a history of great success in a program that is entering it’s second year!
Tom White is the digital media instructor at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA. Currently teaching TV production and animation pathways, Tom's programs have received state and national honors including the 2016 NFHS Network School Broadcast Program Of The Year.
Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.