Tuesday, 14 November 2017

One of my most rewarding teaching experiences yet.

Our Film entry for the Manaiakalani Film Festival
'A Place Called Home.'

As a new teacher I think my most challenging yet rewarding teaching focus yet would have to be the making our class film for the annual Manaiakalani Film Festival and our study that went with it. It was challenging not only because I had not made a film before but also because of the delicate nature of the topic we chose. I really wanted to make a film that was focusing on issues that are relevant to my learners. I also wanted to touch on something that was linked to current events. So I narrowed my possible topics down to ones that were being focused on in the 2017 General Election that was happening at the time. I thought the election was an important thing to touch on as a learning focus for them regardless and in reflection it was an excellent springboard  to choosing the focus for our short film.

After explaining to the class what an election was and the importance of voting in general, I focused more specifically on four major issues in the election. These were; education, health, immigration and housing. I touched on the various reasons why these were big election issues. Then I gave the students some basic facts and statistics about how New Zealand compared in these areas with the rest of the world. Having done this I then looked at how these different issues might affect them both now and in the future. All this time the class was aware that we were going to vote to choose one of these issues to make our short film about. After looking into each the class unanimously voted for 'The Housing Crisis,' as our topic to make our film on. It was clear through our carefully navigated class discussion that many of the class were affected personally by this issue.

We looked more in-depth into the housing crisis issue and watched some news articles about it which gave the class a lot of empathy for those affected by it. They were very eager to make a film on this topic and wanted to give our leaders a strong message that they need to help those who are suffering. After giving them some guidance as to what sort of stories would be logistically possible for us to make a film about in class we settled on a story-line that they were all excited about. The story was going to be about a child in their class who was homeless and having to sleep in their car and how this affected there daily life at school. From there I set about scripting their ideas.

Having never done this before I made numerous mistakes and so adapted things a lot as I went along. I learnt very quickly that my students were too young to manage large amounts of scripted dialogue and also that the sound quality was hard to get consistently good. Very quickly I realised that the story would be more powerful without dialogue and so made the decision to have a music soundtrack instead of dialogue. The lack of dialogue helped my class to act more natural for the camera and I was really happy with the finished result. When I played it to my class for the first time many of them found it so moving they cried. This was an experience I will never forget as we were all so proud of what we had achieved. Our film got chosen to be one of the ones that played at the Manaiakalani Film Festival screening at Hoyts Cinemas in Sylvia Park. Initially I was quite tentative about tackling such big social issues with my class but I was pleased I did it and know that it was really beneficial and engaging for my students.

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