Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I am in "Who's Who Among American Teachers"

I was nominated by someone at LDS Business College to be included in the next edition of "Who's Who Among American Teachers" and I was accepted! I had no idea this was going on, but I will be posted in their next edition of the book and they have notified the Business College about it too.

Not bad for a part time adjunt professor who teaches "Genres of FIlm" English 270 huh? LOL.

I am shocked. Honestly.

I remember the spring of 1999, and Tyler Morgan called to ask me to interview for the position. I was working as a manager at the Book Warehouse in Draper, and he called me at work and asked me if I was interested in the position. I told him he must have the wrong number, because I was looking for work in video production/post production. Tyler then read me parts of my resume and sure enough, it was me. I asked how he got my resume because I had never applied for the position, this was news to me. Tyler replied that he wasn't sure how he received it, but it had been on his desk for a while and kept meaning to call me. I figured "What the heck" and met with him that week.

During the interview he asked me if I would require students to write papers. I replied..."Of course" and was a little surprised with the question. He then asked if I would require students to read the text and to give tests and quizes including the final. Again, I said yes, but I was really confused. This seemed silly to me, what college class doesn't have those things?

At the end of the interview, Tyler thanked me for coming in, and told me he would be in touch shortly. I left feeling quite good about my interview and felt like i had a shot at it. It was only 1 class in the summer and if I got the job, they would use that summer to test drive me in a way. See if I was decent. I must have said the right things, because the next day, he called me up and offered me the position. He later told me that the previous instructor basically showed current and popular films and the general vibe was "show up, watch movies, get an A".

Looking back on that first summer, I had 7 students and MAN was I nervous. I was an INSTRUCTOR. I had to be serious and tough and though I was a nervous wreck inside, I had to be strong outside. I wrote all my notes on the board before class and lectured off a white board, the students had to write it all down by hand and we watched movies on VHS. HOW DEADLY IS THAT? Oh sheesh, I hated my class and I wasn't the one taking it! I figured I was going to be a one trick pony and out. I thought the students would kill me in my review and the College would say "Thanks for the effort, but you stink."

For some reason, the surveys came back with quite positive things to say about me and the class. I was floored. What were my students smoking? I made up my mind then and there that I was going to try to get better every class that I had the privilege to teach. It really is an honor to me. In one review a student said "He's no Roger Ebert, but he tries hard." If nothing else, I do try really hard. I may not be the smartest, fastest, most intelligent person, but I am not afraid to work.

Students take time out of their day to listen to me talk? People PAY MONEY to come to my class? To listen to ME? What? Stop the world, I want to get off. :) I'm a geek. I listen to Rush obsessively. (Lisa and I get to see them at Usana in less than two weeks!!!!) I like video games. (I love my Nintendo Wii) I love movies. I love bad puns. I'm not a scholar. I am not a critic like Anton Ego (See Ratatouille if you haven't yet! Best film so far this year!)

I push myself to make the class interesting. I try to bring humor to the lesson. I try to take complicated ideas like use of montage, camera angles that explain emotional relationships between characters, edits to link scenes through dissolves, etc. and make them easy to understand. I want the students to understand how media is created and how it can be manipulated and why. ALWAYS WHY! Always ask why, don't ever stop. It's the most important question in the world. I want them to have a greater appreciation of the art, the sweat, the drive that goes into these films. I want them to know that there is a full world of film out there, and that it doesn't start and stop with films that make $200 million at the box office.

It is a college course, so we have to have quizes, and tests and papers, but I try to make it interesting and fair. We play film Jeopardy as our review before the midterm and final. I bring donuts before the big tests to give them a sugar rush. I want them to take the info I give them and take it with them. I don't ever want them to just memorize facts and spit them out of their brain onto paper for a test and leave not knowing what the heck the class was even about. I had my share of those at the University of Utah and I HATED that. I still do not know what I was supposed to learn in "Human Geography". (I remember one question on the final dealt with the type of wood used by early settlers in America, and there was ONE sentence about that in the text)

But FILM IS FUN! I try to balance 2 1/2 hours of lecture about "Citizen Kane" with a short spoof from The Simpsons, get the students to discuss the film, etc. I don't ever want to take the fun out of film. It's an amazing medium. I search out blogs, magazine articles, books, etc. to continue learning about older films from Hitchcock or Welles, but I also need to be able to talk about films like how the special effects for "300" or "The Matrix" were done. I need to answer questions about whether or not Adam Sandler is a personality actor. (He is btw) I never want to teach the same class twice. It needs to be new, different and most importantly...BETTER than the last one.

The comment I seem to get most about my class is that my passion really shows and that I really care about the students. Thinking about how this was going to be a 5 minute mention about being recognized by "Who's Who" and it's turned into a 35 minute rant about film...I guess I am passionate about it. I always just think "That's nothing special, that is just who I am." I don't mind staying after class for 30 minutes to discuss the assignment or just film in general. I answer emails in as short a turn around time as possible. I try to assign paper topics that will make them think, but isn't boring or stupid. I don't want them to think it's busy work. I try to find funny or interesting pictures and video to spice up my lecture. That's actually what lead me to starting this blog. :)

It's funny, I am really such a screwy human being. I strive to be optimistic in spite of my nature. I try to be outgoing inspite of being inclined to hang back and blend in. I try to present an image that I know what the heck I am doing with life, even though I am just winging this sucker. I have had students shake my hand after the final exam and tell me how much they enjoyed the class. Some have even said that my class changed their life. WHAT? How can that be? I'm just little old me. I'm nothing special. How could I be responsible for something like that? I appreciate it, but part of me thinks it is just them being nice. :) I drive my wife nuts that way...she has a reserved space in Heaven for staying married to me. :)

Anyway...that winter I started using powerpoint and tried to make it less lecture and more discussion. I wanted to get better each class, I haven't stopped trying since. In fact I am teaching the Fall Semester for the FIRST TIME EVER! I have always taught summer and winter, but never fall. I guess with the college growing, and more students coming in, they thought I could be an asset for the fall semester. My reviews of the class and of me as an instructor have consistently placed me rating higher than the English Department and College averages. That is really amazing and I am honored by it. I love the quote from "Searching for Bobby Fischer" where Bruce tells Josh that "I am honored to call myself your teacher". That is really how I feel being able to teach at the Collge. Tyler Morgan is by FAR the best boss I have ever had, the students are amazing and want to learn, and I get to teach film. I don't teach Calculus or statistics or intro to business accounting. NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THOSE CLASSES! :) But, I get to teach FILM!!!! I own my own video business too with Flash Point Productions! ( I am the luckiest s.o.b. because I get to do what I love. It's a real honor.

I would almost do it for free, but don't you dare tell Tyler. :)

But, to be honored by being included in "Who's Who Among American Teachers" is amazing. They said that less than 1 percent of the honorees are men under 35 who teach college. I keep thinking the people at "Who's Who" will realize their mistake and take my name off the records some day. I really hope that is not the case. :)

Someone took the time to nominate me, and made a compelling enough argument that this group chose to put me in their book as an example of teachers who make a difference. I don't know how much of that I achieve, but I do know how much the students and this College have made a difference in my life. I am a better person, husband, friend, co-worker and teacher because of the people I have met along this amazing journey. I learn more from my students than they ever could learn from me. I thank them. This award is really theirs. It really is.

Well, that's the longest blog from me so far. Five minutes became more than an hour. Stupid obsessive compulsive genes! I am going to pay for this when the alarm goes off in the morning. I hope it is somewhat coherent and makes SOME sense in the light of day. Not that anyone out there is really reading anyway...but it's fun to post here.

"I am honored to call myself your teacher"

Scoops out!

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