Today we begin Week Five of the seminar. For the past month the students have been sharpening their skills and gathering up tools, and now it's time for me to get out of the way while they get to work. We have studied film theory, watched a slew of documentaries together (and debated their relative merits), read widely in issues of gender, explored the basic principles of ethnographic research, and discussed how narrative is crafted. The students have participated in workshops on shooting and editing, conducting interviews, and gathering research. By the beginning of last week, it was clear to all of us that the foundation for our project was firmly in place and it was time to start building.
This seminar is both the most exciting and the most terrifying experience I have had as a teacher. Getting seventeen high-achieving, incredibly motivated young people in one place and trying to harness all that energy into a cohesive project. . . well, let's just say that there are days when I can feel the sparks exploding around us. Few of us are trained to work collaboratively, and many of us in the room (myself included) have learned to enjoy the feeling of individual achievement, not to mention the security (or is it an illusion?) of control. There are moments when what I am asking them to do seems impossible. But there are other moments when I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of what we might be able to achieve, or when I realize that they are already pushing each other to stretch and grow.
I am learning about myself, as a teacher and as a person, because the intimacy and intensity of this experiences demands it. I already knew that I am a control freak, and yet it has surprised me how difficult it is for me to step back, let go of some of the control, bite my tongue when a conflict arises, settle in and be still and trust them to do what I know they can do. I already knew that I work best when I am deeply focused, and yet I am astonished at how obsessed I am with this project; I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and plans and worries, and I think about it every waking moment. It's exhausting, and humbling, and invigorating.
Today, looking out the window at the impossibly gorgeous September morning, I can't quite believe that I get to come to work and do this.
I am going to try to hang onto the peace of this moment, because I have a feeling I will need it as we start picking up speed towards our goals.