Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My third year of teaching

Intro to Journ Class Year III First Sem

It’s official. I love teaching and I am back for the first and second sem. And I’ve got a bigger class (43 students) that I was given the Case Study Room that is normally allotted to film students.

While my previous two years I was cooped up in a smaller classroom, it was fine because it made for better interaction between the students. The new classroom could seat an additional 15 students.

The new classroom and the number of students posed a real challenge. Memorizing their names is one of them. I always thought that knowing people’s names and addressing them by their names was a sign of respect. I am sure my students appreciate that rather than have a prof who really doesn’t give a crap about them and their education.

This first sem class I can say is the product of my learnings from my first two years. Obviously, I made some mistakes in my approach and I can honestly say that for the first time I am heading into the school year confident and totally excited.

Like I have written before, my class is an unconventional one. When you hear the word ‘journalism” images of news, politics, and crime come to fore. It’s a put off for students for whom many are taking this as an elective. My job, the way I see it, is to make the craft more appealing by using music, travel, sports, lifestyle etc. as a means to gain interest in writing, taking photos and videos, and even blogging and podcasting. The very things that have allowed me to thrive in an industry that lends itself to an old boy network I am passing on to my students. It’s highly interactive where their opinions and work are put to the front all the time.

Just as I address them as individuals, I also make them work in groups. It creates chemistry and makes for new friends. Just the way it works in the real world.

Today we held Food Day where each group was supposed to prepare a three-course breakfast meal with the sandwich as the main course. They were supposed to use not more than a budget of Php700 and prepare everything inside three minutes. Of course, some ingredients had to be prepped before. After their presentation where they had to put on a show, they had to make all the other groups taste them. The other groups in turn would take pictures and review them in their group blogs.

By no means is anyone a professional here. The idea is to also tap their creativity. And I am very pleased with the results. It may not be worth a bother for someone like Anthony Bourdain but one has to start somewhere.

The inspiration is both from Top Chef (we have weekly Quick Write Challenges) and food critic Lori Baltazar who once taught in Ateneo but gave it up to attend to her career that grew when her blog got so insanely popular.

In the past weeks their quick writes touched on the controversial Pacquiao-Bradley fight and racism vis-à-vis Euro 2012. The task was to write intros or leads in three to five sentences. And that helps also in reviews just the way you see them on Rotten Tomatoes.

Unfortunately today, we were not able to have a real chef around to judge and prep a new creation himself using the same ingredients. Scheduling problems. But hopefully, we’ll have another one soon.

I thought that in the last couple of weeks, the class started to come around and be more comfortable with the unconventional nature of what I was teaching as well as their work. And today was proof that we have something great going on. What they do in the classroom – writing and more – is incredible. I am honored to be teaching a class of talented individuals. Well, all my classes have been great and highly memorable. 

What makes it even more cool is that the class breaks so many stereotyopes in so many ways. During my first year, I asked Sev Sarmenta (then the Dean) if I could trade all my athletes for regular students. He said, "No, they will be okay." Sev didn't tell me the exact truth. They were awesome. I can go on about my jocks on how great students they were and how they produced great work. I can also say that Ryan Buenafe wrote one of the best essays I've seen. Ever. 

Does that surprise you? Maybe. What I have learned is that if you encourage them the proper way they will deliver great work. 

When I came back from a week’s absence while I was in Singapore I was extremely happy to be back in my classroom. Teaching is my stress breaker away from an increasingly annoying situation at work that is beginning to sap my enthusiasm.

After my first sem of teaching I thought it would be my first and last. Instead I am on my third year and loving every minute of it.

Next week is Music Day where Dondi Virrey of one of my favorite indie bands, Techy Romantics, will be performing. My students will interview Dondi, take pictures of his performance, and then write about it.

In the weeks after that we tackle travel and history, sports, social concerns, photography and fashion. And investigative journalism. We’ll have surprise guests and more.

Who would have thought that I’d have a ball doing this when I was fearful of cruel and uninspiring profs? And I am blessed to have taught and teach such great students. I am so lucky.

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