Thursday, August 31, 2006

Need more comedy

Debbie and I have been thinking that we'd love to see some new comedy shows. We had a little look on amazon UK last night, and there are several shows we're now curious about. Not quite curious enough to buy them outright, but maybe if we could sample an episode first...

One is called Darkside, a parody of low budget 70s SF shows. Another is called Nathan Barley, and has Julian Barratt in it. Lastly there was a parody of 1980s TV shows that are about the amazing Science of the Future. I forget what it was called.

Yeah, so we'd be very keen to see some new comedy shows. It's nice to have something you feel compelled to watch. We did start watching The Wire, which is definitely not a comedy show, but we remain ungripped half an hour in. There is a comic level of profanity, which was mildly off-putting. It's not like I got offended, but I did find myself laughing at some of the dialogue as it was so OTT profane:

Tough cop: That's fucking right, motherfucker. Get that fucking shit to the DA ASAP.

Another tough cop: Fuck that shit, you lousy fuck. Those fucking drugs are making the DA chew my ass off, and I don't fucking like that shit.

1st Tough Cop: Shit fuck ass shit!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Regional Finals

Were cool. I really enjoyed some of the films, especially a comedy called Extra Curricular, and a horror called Horror 101. Both excellent short films, made by students.

We were pretty thrilled to learn that With Mighty Power made it through to the finals! We kinda hoped Life Lesson 12 would make it through as well, but the Consequence won in the Wellington heat.

So, September 3oth will see us rocking up to the national finals! Hopefully we'll get some feedback from the judges, as well as the pleasure of being finalists. Having seen The Consequence, and heard about the claymation film that won the Auckland regionals, I think we'll be very happy with 3rd place in our category (out of 3). There's some chance that there may even be a prize for our film, though I suspect it might be a not-so-easy-to-share ipod shuffle or similar.

Huzzah!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Preliminary Scores

Well, Moviefest has posted the scores from the preliminary judging. It turns out that 2 of our films were in the middle of the pack, and one only just scraped in to the regionals.

There were only a small number of entries in the hobbyist category, so there were only a couple that didn't make it into a regional final :)

The total scores are out of 25. The top film (which happens to be the other one in the Wellington regional) got 20.3 out of 25. Our best film (which is in the Wellington heat) got 17.1, the other in that heat got 13.7.

In the Christchurch heat, our film got 13.3, while the opposition got 13.8 and 13.6.

These are only the preliminary round scores (and there was something wrong with the tape we submitted - picture glitches, which have been rectified), but our chances of getting in to the finals are somewhat slim - unless the Christchurch judges really like superheroes!

Monday, August 21, 2006

YEEEAAAAHHHH!!!!!

From the moviefest forum:

Wellington

H115 The Consequence
H169 Life Lesson # 12
H168 Teach Him a Lesson

Christchurch

H114 Coffee
H138 Mid East Lesson
H198 With Mighty Power
They haven't checked all the scores yet, but it looks like all three of our short films made it into the regional finals! With Mighty Power will be screening in Christchurch, which is kinda funny, but I sure ain't complaining. I guess it might be weird to have the Wellington regionals totally dominated by one tape's worth of films :)

I am now officially 'chuffed'.


Note: The organiser, Jo Booth, is sick, and thus did a quick and not hugely formatted post. I glanced at the list for Wellington and saw none of our entries. Then I noticed that Primary Schools were listed first. So I scrolled down, and saw that 2 of our films had made it through. Hoorah! Then I looked at the Christchurch list, and saw that we had a clean sweep. Boo-ya!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The gift of time

I did not, in the end, have to teach another teacher's class period one today. I had just about the whole period to myself, and I got almost nothing done.

The reasons were twofold:
- the students had not filmed much, because the cameras kept being hard to get hold of (though I have some doubts about their motivation)
- the teacher had failed to book the computer lab that's needed for video capturing (which she said she'd do last week)

And it turns out there are about 6 students involved in film-making. The rest of the class are making websites and such. So it will probably be a complete doddle, whenever it does end up happening :)

Roleplaying
We played a game of Prime Time Adventures last night. We came up with a sci-fi frontier show, called Second Wave. There were some nice ideas in there, and I really enjoyed the freedom afforded by PTA to get through the story at a good pace. It made me very curious about just how difficult it is to run PTA well - I can see how hard it is, but I'm not sure how I'd go in the producer's chair. It is a game I will have to run before the year is over!

Short Films
Are being viewed/preliminarily judged tomorrow. I keep checking the forum and website out of nervous excitement. It is a very good thing for keeping me distracted and not thinking about the ERO visit that's very likely next period (in 10 minutes time).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dreams of Stardom

Moviefest is a short film making competition. You have to make a 5 minute film based on a given topic (MovieFest Topic or MFT). This year the topic was The Lesson.

Filled with enthusiasm from the highly enjoyable experience of the 48 Hour Film Competition, Debbie and I decided that we were very keen to enter the competition this year. We ended up entering 3 times, with different groups of people.

With Mighty Power is a superhero origin story about a young woman who is bitten by a radioactive (flying?) spider, and becomes a hero. It is a moral tale about the importance of saying thank you, and was a lot of fun to make. We made it with a stripped down (as in, fewer members, not fewer clothes) version of the Jenni's Angels team. No film/TV industry professionals are allowed in the competition, so we had to do without some of our more experienced team members.

One thing that was actually very good about not having any professionals around was that we were all on a level playing field, and could contribute our ideas or skills without feeling too daft or out of our league. I think it was a very positive learning experience for the team, and should feed nicely into future Jenni's Angels outings.

Life Lesson #12 is an instructional video on how to get a date for the school ball. It was made with students from Debbie's school, but with more teacher involvement than is allowed for it to be a school entry. I think the kids have to operate the camera and do all the editing for it to be admissable as a school entry, and Debbie and I did those jobs. It was a lot of fun to make, as there were some great students involved, and physical comedy is always fun.

Teach Him A Lesson is a film I refer to as being a 'film school' style film. It's serious, and a little ambiguous. It's about a woman who's deeply unhappy in her relationship, and is struggling to come to terms with a recent loss. We only had 4 people in the team for this film, so we all had to work pretty hard to get it filmed in one day. It does contain a whipping scene, which means it may be disqualified for violent content. Never mind - a lot of fun to make in spite of the serious content, and a very nice counterbalance tonally to LL12.

The dream of course is that all three films will make it into the regional finals (in about a week and a half), and that one of them will win the competition. This is unlikely, but that doesn't stop me wanting it.

It's slightly more likely than placing in the 48, as there were something like 400 entries in the 48 hour film contest, as opposed to less than 20 in the hobbyist category for Moviefest.

We'll find out how our little films fared after this weekend. Fingers crossed that there were no technical hitches (we did play the tape back through the TV and didn't spot any problems) and that we get some good feedback from the judges.

And that we win ;)

Monday, August 14, 2006

My bad

This morning I forgot to return a camera to the library - it was a camera that another teacher needed, too. It's totally my bad, and I find myself feeling very sheepish about the whole thing.

On the other hand, when the teacher in question quite rightly expressed their displeasure, they got a bit ranty. To the point where they didn't actually hear the questions I was asking until I'd repeated them at least twice. Words such as "completely unprofessional" and "I'd never do that to another teacher" were used. After I had acknowledged that it was entirely my fault.

There is some value in venting one's feelings. It can clear the air, and allow one to move on with one's day. There is great value in knowing when you've really screwed up someone's day, and need to let them vent.

There is, however, also some value in treating people who are about to do you a favour with courtesy, even when they've messed up your day.

I'm supposed to be teaching the class of the teacher I screwed over this week, as a favour.

I now have quite mixed feelings about the situation. I clearly did something bad, and fully deserved a telling off. I think the language used was a little stronger than I'd be comfortable with, but it certainly wasn't offensive.

The problem is, I don't want to go out of my way to teach extra classes - it was only ever going to be a favour. And now I have a number of competing factors - guilt, indignance, laziness - swishifying my brain, tempting me with scenarios that are less work for me, but are not good for collegial relationships. The fact that the teacher in question hadn't booked any cameras as of a week ago, and didn't do so until I suggested that it might be a good idea for a filming project, also makes me wonder what my overall contribution to the project will be - how much of a hindrance as opposed to a boon I'll end up being.

I will teach the class.

I will return borrowed items on time.

I will never offer my help to other departments again.

That should pretty much cover it ;)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Unit plans, arts and crafts...

I am having an unproductive day so far.

Well, I have 'taught' 2 classes, so it's not entirely unproductive, but the non-contact hour I'm now nearing the end of has been less than brilliant. I hesitate to say that I really taught much today as the pedagogical content of my lessons consisted of 'work on your assignments', then making a little label out of duct tape for the front of a folder and playing the second episode of the Triffids to my class.

I guess I did update my year plan for Y9, and make a (retrospective mostly) year plan for Y11, 12 and 13. They now live in front of my plan book, which I must write some sort of lesson plans in before ERO get here on Monday.

I also need to write 4 more unit plans today, but I've got lunch time and period 5 to do that. Then I'll be 90% ready to be ERO'd and have all the required paperwork :)

I am feeling a little crafty today. I want to do simple boy-solution craft tasks (like cutting out letters and numbers from red duct tape, and putting different spacing holes into a clear file pocket so it fits into my planner and such). Maybe it's just editing-withdrawal fidgeting?

Lastly, Debbie has blogged about stuff. The wonders of taking a day of school. She also did all kinds of awesome stuff around the house, and even made me a delicious after-school snack when I got home. It made me seriously consider the economics of Debbie quitting her job and being a shufu :)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Everybody cut, everybody cut...

Busy week. Saw 7 hours of the production performances (all of Tuesday, first half Wednesday, filmed Friday, helped out/watched Saturday).

It was very good, and got noticeably better as the kids performed more, the crowds got bigger and the technical aspects became smoother.

I am now slaving away over the DVD, having bought a 200gb external hard drive specifically for school production editing. I believe my school's production is even going to reimburse me for it, which is an awesome thank-you for doing the filming/editing.

It's going to be a heck of a lot easier this year, using Premier Pro instead of Windows Moviemaker. Last year was silly amounts of work. This year it's pretty much a case of syncing up the footage from 2 cameras, deleting the sound on one track, then trimming away all of the bits of the close up footage that we don't want to reveal the wider angle footage that's sitting under it.

Then repeat, in very quick fashion, for the third camera, which is a very wide angle (all the way from the back of the hall). We probably won't end up using much of the very wide, but there are a few places where it'll come in handy.

The benefit is that it's much, much faster than last year. The only bummer is the 8 or so hours I have to spend capturing all the footage. The transfer rate for the USB hard drive is good, but over a 50 minute capture (around 10gb) it tends to drop a few frames of footage, which puts things out of sync. So I have to capture to an internal drive, then copy the files across. Which is fine, but adds even more time to a time consuming process.

Right, I have reached my self-imposed 7 minute time limit for blogging - better post this and get some work done!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Values Extract from the Curriculum

Here's the relevant page from the draft curriculum (whole thing available here from tki.org.nz, a 2.2mb pdf):

Values

Values are deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable. They are expressed in the ways in which people think and act.

Every decision relating to curriculum or programmes and every interaction that takes place in a school reflects the values of the individuals involved and the collective values of the institution. The values outlined in this curriculum are those that the New Zealand community supports because they enable us to live together and thrive in a diverse, democratic society in the twenty-first century.

New Zealand students are encouraged to value:
*excellence, by aiming high and by persevering in the face of difficulties.
*innovation, enquiry, and curiosity, by thinking creatively, critically, and reflectively;
*diversity, as found in our different cultures, languages and heritages;
*respect for themselves, for others, and for human rights;
*equity, which means fairness and social justice;
*community and participation for the common good;
*care for the environment (the Earth and its interrelated eco-systems);
*integrity, which involves being honest, responsible, and accountable and acting ethically.

The specific ways in which these values find expression in an individual school will be guided by dialogue between the school and its community. They should be evident in the school’s philosophy, structures, curriculum, classrooms, and relationships. When the school community has developed strongly held and clearly articulated values, those values are likely to be expressed in everyday actions and interactions within the school.

Through their learning experiences, students will learn about:
*their own values and those of others;
*different kinds of values, such as moral, social, cultural, aesthetic, and economic values;
*the values on which New Zealand’s cultural and institutional traditions are based;
*the values of other peoples and cultures.

Through their learning experiences, students will develop their ability to:
*express their own values;
*explore, with empathy, the values of others;
*critically analyse values and actions based on them;
*discuss disagreements that arise from differences in values and negotiate solutions;
*make ethical decisions and act on them.

The point that every interaction that takes place in a school reflects the values of the individuals involved and the collective values of the institution is what I was aiming at in my last post. And the added goal of critically analyse values and actions based on them must surely reassure the chronically anxious or knee-jerky. If the goal is to teach students to think critically about values, the only people who need be worried are those whose values don't stand up to a bit of critical thinking.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Values in Education

On last night's TV news there was some interesting spin put on the draft curriculum that's being released today. The curriculum includes a statement about values, and the fact that schools should be modeling and teaching the following values:

Those values were excellence, innovation, diversity, respect, equity, integrity, community and care for the environment.

The National Party response, given about equal air-time as the information about what is in the new curriculum, was that schools need to focus on the three R's, not all this values rubbish. And "Whose values should be taught?" a concerned vox pops asked.

It's a bit of a storm in a teacup, likely to be talked up to make it a story, but not of huge consequence. Schools have always taught values. It would be naive to think they don't. The 'traditional' approach that's being implied by the three R's focus teaches some clear values. A traditional classroom dynamic teaches the values of conformity, obedience, and accepted wisdom.

If you look back to the golden days of the 1950s, students were being taught that the teacher is always right and that doing as you're told is praiseworthy. Those are values. There was also a lot of national pride instilled in the education system (as there is now), with a traditional link to the Mother Country.

There was also the 'hidden curriculum', the lessons that students learn by observation. Like, men are more successful professionally than women (the gender balance in teaching in secondary schools is skewed to the feminine, but in senior management this balance is reversed). Sport is more valuable than other cultural activities.

I'm no scholar, but what little history I've picked up from TCOL and studying history at Uni leads me to beleive that we've always taught values in schools, in one form or another. There is no need to get het up about putting it in writing, where it can be seen, discussed and criticised.

To return to the values named for a moment:

excellence, innovation, diversity, respect, equity, integrity, community and care for the environment.

Are any of these actually controversial? Schools have always given awards for excellence, thereby teaching pupils the value of excellence. Diversity is a fact in schools, and we need our kids to be able to deal with it if schools are to function. Equity, innovation, integrity, community, environment? These are all pretty basic elements of having a functioning society.

As a last note, I'm reminded of a Stephen Fry sketch from the show A Bit of Fry and Laurie. A politician is on the podium, talking about values in education. I'm paraphrasing here, from watching it about a week or two ago:

"Most importantly, we must teach our youngsters the value of not damaging the passenger side mirror of my car. Leaving my bloody car alone is one of the bedrocks of good education."