I learned early on to always beware the quiet one. In any group of students, there was usually one that stood out by not standing out. They were never the ones to initiate a ruction, fight, or quarrel. Nobody was likely to finger them in a lineup and say, ” that’s the one officer!”
Growing up, this person tended to be me. I was held back in school several times as the family moved from Washinton Heights to Long Island to another place on Long Island and back to Washington Heights. Being perpetually behind someone’s curriculum eight ball made it hard for me to catch up and excel. Also, being the new kid, I attracted attention that I did not want. So I hid.
I was encouraged to teach a media and television production workshop to seventh and eighth-graders about seventeen years ago. Several times a week, I’d truck a pile of video equipment into a middle school to encourage the kids to produce TV.
It was supposed to be part of an “enriched education” project. I would get the best students. But, remembering the quiet ones, I insisted that only students who were interested and voluntarily signed up would be allowed in the program. I’d been thrust into too many “it’ll be good for you” situations. On a practical level, I didn’t want to be facing a bunch of sullen draftees eager to topple another shibboleth of education..
From the outset, I created the program to be a holistic, hands-on experience; there were classes but balanced with playing with the toys. The toys were professional camcorders, tripods, sliders, and even a small jib crane. Rather than some reduced feature computer editing software, they learned to use the current professional editing suite on an iMac computer. I was pretty amazed at how thorough an education in the area the students could absorb. Editing and lighting seemed to be where my quiet ones landed. The more unruly loved scriptwriting and acting.
After fourteen years, the program ended; it had been a terrific run. Every student departed with, at minimum, a good understanding of how modern media got created. Several students went on to film and video programs at college, became Youtube creators and musicians.
Through them, I had the opportunity to play with areas of television that were beyond my documentarian roots. For example, the students produced great commercials, did the video for an entire fictitious political campaign, and delved into creating a soap opera.
Working with me all the way were the quiet students who mastered editing, lighting, and storyboarding. Much like any professional team, you need a mix of personalities and aptitudes to be successful.