Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Powerful Learning Experience

Here's my confession: I am a horrible student. I swear to you I earned D’s and C’s in some classes in high school (same goes for college) and I believe I am currently the record holder of my high school for having been absent the most times for someone who still managed to graduate.

The reason for this can be traced to my "powerful learning experience".

When I was a sophomore in high school, I got it in my head that I was going to be a filmmaker. I wrote a script with my childhood best friend Hannibal (yes, his real name), about a young hero who was torn between his Spiderman comic book collection and a girl he yearned for. It was called “Call Her Mary Jane”, and even though it clocked in with a running time of about 20 minutes, it took a month of laborious filming (with a volunteer cast and crew) and meticulous editing to get it completed by the submission date of the film competition I was planning to enter. My amazing "Constructionist" parents had to help me pretend to suffer from a string of mysterious ailments so I could cut class and toil day and night on the film, which ended up proving to me I most definitely did not want to be a filmmaker.

Beyond that important discovery, I learned how to master number of editing and filmmaking programs (which has helped me ever since with learning new technologies), how to manage an unreliable teenage crew (which taught me to be an effective leader), how to construct narratives (which inspired me to pursue writing) and how to work hard and have fun at the same time.

I’ll also (perhaps presumptuously) take credit for launching the career of the young lady I cast as the love-object of my film, Dianna Agron, who used this role on her early resume to get her first real acting gigs.

I'll admit to an unfair ideological advantage. My dad is a close colleague and friend of John Seeley Brown, who was cheering me on and forecasting my future Oscar acceptance speech while I charged full speed into an early version of the...let's say...productive neurosis that would characterize my educational career. At the time, I was oblivious to JSB's influential educational philosophy, and only knew him as some dude with white hair who would hang around the house and, to my delight, generally authorize what my school Dean called "bad" behavior.

It strikes me now how much like Globaloria "Call Her Mary Jane" was. All the same frustrations with technology, creative struggle, hard, self-motivated work was in play. It's too bad that I had to actually trick my school so I could educate myself in this way. With Globaloria, the school is able to play a part in this kind of learning process. Educators can help to create the kind of studio space needed to develop the important skills project-based (or "tinkering") learning gives students-- rewarding kids for this hard/fun work, and not punishing them for it.

"Call Her Mary Jane" was the first large self-motivated project I worked on, and it led to a string of them through my high school and college career. I have always been able to leverage my "portfolio" of passionate work to find opportunities and achieve what successes I can claim in life.

7 comments:

wvdesigndiva said...

Now, don't you think "Call her Mary Jane" should be on youtube and linked to post? I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to see this film! I serached on youtube and found Rick James. It added some funk to the morning, but still not satisfied!
;^)

cchenoweth said...

I too was not the greatest high school student failing the geometry regents, not the class five times. I have a concrete mind and could not visualize angles or understand what they did. I do totally understand.

Denise Stalnaker said...

What a great story--makes me feel like I am trying to do the right things for my students. You are an example that not all things learned--take place in the classroom.

Rachel said...

Thanks for your comments! Monica-- I would have loved to have embedded the clip, but it was made...let's see...almost 10 years ago! I have a VHS of it somewhere (ha!), but haven't gotten it uploaded on youtube yet!

Anonymous said...

Powerful story! LOL. LOL, The big question: Would you have gotten an A on a Globaloria class has it been offered in your high school? What would have been you game about? (for some reason, my grammar feels strange in this post...)

Idit said...

The above is from me

Rachel said...

I'm sure I would've done well in Globaloria! Not an "easy" A maybe, but a sure one!

Hrm...I'll have to think more about what my game would be about! Maybe I'll post on that in the future.