I teach and coordinate film and television production courses at Brookswood Secondary School in Langley, BC. Often I am asked, "How did you end up doing this?" Let's just say that life beyond UVic was a journey filled with a variety of intriguing detours where I continued to learn.
I graduated from the elementary education program at UVic in 1986 with concentrations in physical education and music. After a brief career in primary education, I moved to Brookswood and found my niche when I proposed turning an empty metalwork shop into a television studio. Five years later this program has evolved into seven different courses in film and television-a program so successful that it is often difficult for a busy teacher to keep pace.
While reading, writing and math skills are extremely important, other skills are needed in order for young people to secure their future. These life skills are termed "employable skills" by employers. These are the skills that assist people in any career-they cannot be learned in a lecture. Instead, they need to be practised in a hands-on environment.
The four-year film and TV program at Brookswood has the luxury of having the materials needed to provide this type of environment. Students learn how to operate a camera, and how to script and edit their videos. However, if you asked these young people what they have really learned, these skills probably would be listed last. Instead, they would list time management, organization, planning, teamwork and problem solving or perhaps adaptability, flexibility, work ethic, love of learning, support of peers, creativity, high performance standards, professionalism, leadership and responsibility. This program provides an effective learning environment.
An exceptional example of the use of these skills occurred last year. During the planning of one of our television shows for BackStreet (the series we produce for Rogers Community Television in BC and the national "Cable in the Classroom" initiative) the Grade 12 student director approached me about doing a story on professional snowboarding. When she explained that the filming would involve two days on Whistler Mountain I recognized the difficulty of the venture but encouraged her to solve such problems as liability, costs, travel and supervision. One month later, she had organized 20 free passes for hosts and crew for Whistler ($1000 value), free accommodation in Whistler Village for two nights ($2000 value), a professional snowboarding team, a Suburban 4x4 to drive the mountain road and a sponsorship from SIMS Snowboarding in Washington who supplied the hosts and reporter with clothing and equipment. We ran into further problems including weather and a horrendous schedule that was strictly enforced by the director-up at 5:00 am and filming until 11:00 pm both days! However, the venture was a huge success and the crew learned about teamwork, problem solving, organization and perseverance. Best of all, the crew members had fun, felt proud of their achievement, and even surpassed their original vision of the show.
I believe that no matter what subject is presented, the success of teaching comes down to one thing...passion. If we are passionate about something, we tend to engage people and nowhere is this more evident than with youth. My experience with young people supports this belief because as I learned or developed new material (often staying just ahead of my classes) my enthusiasm inadvertently became contagious. I believe that when young people feel a teacher's excitement a connection is made between student and teacher and the subject becomes more enjoyable for everyone. Young people want to connect-they need to belong. It is up to us to try to "hook" them in.
Sometimes we think that we have failed to connect with a student-only to discover that the reverse is true. Last year a rather immature young man, whom I really enjoyed working with for four years, graduated from the program along with 24 others. I did not believe that he had been completely hooked into the program. When I perused my yearbook on the last day of classes I noticed that beneath his grad photo he had written, "Thank you to Ms. T. for making me believe I could do anything I set my mind to." In my 14 years of teaching I have experienced similar "wow" experiences. But I look back on my teaching career with horror at the comments I uttered in moments of impatience. I despair at their possible impact. The effect a teacher's words or actions can have on a young life is overwhelming.
Since leaving UVic I have learned much about passion in teaching, about youth and the need for youth involvement. I have worked with young people from seven to 17 and found that learning is both an on-going and reciprocal experience-I teach students, students teach me. A love of learning has guided my career and I hope that I have managed to pass this love of learning on to my students.In 1998, Dawne Tomlinson was presented with the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence. An eight-page typed essay from parents and students recommended her for the award.