Teaching at Cabrini Connections Video Club

If you’re given the opportunity to spend time in a classroom with a handful of 14-17 year olds as a guest teacher, what would you do with that time? I’d want to grab the golden opportunity to touch and inspire young lives, to be that spark in helping them dream big. But what if you only had all of just 90 minutes to do it?

Film Club Oct 05 2009 002My colleague Karl and I were asked to guest teach video editing at the Cabrini Connections Video Club. And even though i’ve taught people editing previously at Mediaworks, it was usually one-on-one, and they were college students. As first-timers teaching in front of an actual class of students, we were naturally nervous.

There were also a couple of challenges we had to overcome. You see, Karl and I were fortunate enough to learn to use editing software in big computer labs and fancy projectors that allowed us to follow our instructors step by step. However, with the limited resources of a nonprofit organization like Cabrini Connections, where they only had 1 ancient mac that (barely) ran Final Cut Express, it was clear that we would not be able to teach the kids in the same way we were taught.

Another challenge we faced was overcoming what is known as The Curse of Knowledge. Often, we become so used to the things that come to us naturally, that we forget what it was like to not know. How do we put across these complicated editing concepts in a simple manner? Stories. Stories and examples always help. After a week of prep and a lot of thought, we came up with our lesson plan and handouts.

We got through concepts of the individual frame and how meaning can change drastically when you splice together different images. We got a little technical with continuity editing techniques too. Getting to use YouTube videos and clips from movies really helped to illustrate our points better. Film Club Oct 05 2009 001

I think they really enjoyed getting some hands-on editing practice and making their own editorial decisions the most. I remember enjoying hands-on sessions the most too, back in the day. Karl and I decided that the best workaround was for us both to bring our laptops to class and split the students into 2 groups. We’d then individually guide the students and ask them to take turns deciding the arrangement of 4 shots taken from one of Karl’s old college projects.

You should have heard how excited they were. Even though the plan was for Karl and I to be the ones actually using Final Cut to execute their editorial decisions, one of my boys rushed to take the hot seat in front of my laptop and started clicking away happily. “Ah, you’ve used this before, haven’t you?” I asked. He replied with confidence, “yeah, my school has macs.” Another one of my girls, after peeking over to see how Karl’s group was doing, said with such pride, “theirs looks good, but ours is gonna be better!” Ah, the spirit of competition. :)

At least 1 of the girls, Melissa, has expressed interest in going to film school in future. I would love to help her gain some awesome set experience before college sometime by inviting her to a Northwestern student film set. I can imagine how thrilled she’d be!

Those 90 minutes whizzed on by all too quickly. And while I don’t think we managed to get across anything that was particularly as life-changing as i had hoped, I still think we all enjoyed the session. I think it would take a little more time to be able to instill in them how they can use their video-making skills to do something positive. It blows my mind how teachers do this on a daily basis. Respect!

Thanks Michael and Brad for asking us to come teach. Thanks Karl for tag-teaming it with me. It was such a great experience!


To read more about the Cabrini Connections Video Club and the great work they’re doing, check out their blog here.

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