Basically since the first week, the class I am teaching at New York University has very quickly turned into something that I just do. It’s now officially part of my routine.
At first, I got to school a half an hour early and anxiously waited in the room, hands folded and smiling warmly when the students showed up. Last week when I showed up exactly on time, the (mostly) full class was waiting for me. My sunglasses were still perched low on my nose, and I was a bit groggy from the previous (a-bit-later-than-it-should-have-been) night.
Here’s the dialogue.
The girl in the front row: “Hey movie star.”
Me, not realizing I still had my sunglasses on: “I’m sorry?”
The girl in the front row: “You look like an Olsen in those sunglasses.”
Me, realizing and now taking the sunglasses off: “Right, sorry.”
The girl in the front row: “I’m kidding.”
Me: “Right.” An awkward pause and then: “Okay this week, we are going to be talking about how on set sound recording influences the post production process.”
All in all, I’ve been able to find a little bit of a groove and, at this point, I’ve done eight of the 12 classes that I was hired to do—a mere two weeks to go.
Looking back, there have definitely been some classes where I really felt I’ve been reaching the kids. I’m right on it, eloquent and insightful. But there have also been a few classes where I am totally reaching. Once, I did 15 minutes on sound that should have been 10. The extra five minutes, when I had nothing to say, were excruciating, really. I’m lucky I survived. In that moment, I was not so sure how it was all going to work out.
I do have a bit of a dwindling attendance problem at times and kids definitely show up late. If I ever do this again I am going to be stricter about attendance and tardiness. But I got off on a very lax foot and I can see now that it is basically impossible to recover from it.
One of real problems is that the students know that I have no power. On the plus side, I guess the ones that are showing up want to be there. But they know that they are not given a grade by me and that, in theory, their attendance in this class is supposed to affect their grade in the Intermediate Production Class that is connected to the particular “tech” that I am teaching.
But to be honest with you (don’t tell them), only one of the two professors that I am teaching for even wrote back to me.
Actually, I have had almost no supervision from NYU. They gave me some teaching tools in the beginning of the semester and then told me to have fun. I like that they gave me the opportunity to work it out for myself.
I’ve struggled at times with the equipment. Two weeks ago, I had to screen a beta tape squeezed into letterbox when it should be 4x3. A DVD that I was showing stopped in the middle. But I’ve tried to roll with it. The students are way less helpful than I was at that age. As I was semi-aimlessly pushing buttons, I was thinking how much of a nerd I must have been when I was a student because I never would have let a professor struggle this much before at least trying to help. Ah well, kids these days.
Last week, a student came up to me and told me that the lecture that I gave with a Script Supervisor had given him the confidence to do it for the first time on set. He said he was thinking that it might make a good career. I smiled and told him that I thought it was a great idea.
In the early mornings, I walk to school with a bit of a spring in my step, the kind that only the thought of molding young minds can give you.