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Tale of the Tape


I talk a lot. That’s one thing I realized when I watched the video of me leading a classroom discussion on Michener’s Chesapeake this week. At least, I talk a lot louder and clearer than any student in the room. Years of projecting my voice over noisy groups of kids seems to have left me with a positively operatic larynx.

This does not bode well for videotaping. The discussion itself was fairly balanced, really. Students had prepared by finding three passages in the book and making notes about how each illustrated one of eight “global themes,” like “political legitimacy and authority” or “development and diffusion of technology.”

Their comments, as usual with these gifted young people, were often perceptive. But you could only hear about a third of what they said. The boys were generally more audible than the girls, because of the bass in their voices. The impression a viewer of the tape is left with, I’m afraid, is that I’m basically conversating with myself.

I did learn some important stuff about how to make a tape. I was doing the same lesson two periods in a row. The first time, I had the camera on a tripod behind and to the right of me. My profile was at the left edge of the screen, and a ring of students in wooden one-armed bandits stretched in a graceful archipelago beside me. Unfortunately, it was less than half the kids, and as often as not, the speaker was off camera.

The second class, I moved the camera to a position near the door of the classroom, on my left as I sat in the circle. And I figured out how to crank up the tripod to a height of about six feet, so the camera was shooting slightly down on me and the kids. This time, I was on screen right, more of my face and hands visible, and a broader swathe of kids sitting around to my right and to my left. Of course, you could only see the backs of the heads of the ones on my left. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s where the girl who raises her hand more times than the rest of the class combined chose to plop her books.

As far as the sound quality, I guess I need to work on microphone placement. I hung an external mic from the bracing for the acoustic ceiling panels, carefully clipping the cord that ran back to the camera up and out of the shot. I placed the mic a few feet in front of me, hanging like a light bulb to capture all their good ideas. Next time, I guess it needs to go farther from me and somehow closer to them. Maybe I need to get a different kind of mic, one that picks up sound from all directions better than the one the library gave me.

One moment that the video tape did not capture was three quarters of the way through the second period, when my techno wiz helper spoke up in the middle of a heated debate about the destruction of a character named Tciblento, a Choptank princess and emblem of her people who is reduced to silence and misery at the hands of a series of ever more despicable men.

“Mr. R.,” he called out, eagerly waving his hand.

“Yes, Andrew,” I said, excited that a kid normally more interested in how to work the smart board was ready to share an opinion about literary pathos.

“Is that little red light on the camera over there supposed to be on right now? Cause it’s not.”


Emmet, We all think videotaping will be easy, since we tape ourselves and our families all the time. Somehow it's so much more challenging to videotape ourselves in action in the classroom. Everything you mentioned--too much teacher talk, indistinct teacher voice, student interaction with the camera instead of the discussion--happened to me and to hundreds of other candidates, I'm sure! Glad you're working on this well ahead of March--I can tell from your comments that you've already got plans for a better taping the next time. Relax and have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family!

The taping was absolutely the most trying part of Board Certification. You're, right, by the way, about the microphone--you need one that picks up voices from multiple directions--it's important to hear the interaction between you and the students and the students with each other. Don't throw away any of the tapes, though, no matter how bad. Even if you don't use them for the Boards, they make great tools for your own classroom research.
Best wishes,

HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love when the technophiles FINALLY want to contribute on a literary level: “…red light…cause it’s not.” BWAAAAH. Adorable. Thank you for sharing. I’m still laughing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so glad to meet someone else going through the process and agonizing over Entry 4! I am going through the process currently while taking a class, and our professor made Entry 4 due tomorrow! It has given me the required motivation to finish it tonight. I found your blog while searching for help on the reflection because the directions are so vague.

Good luck to you, and thanks for the blog. As I sit frantic in front of my computer, searching for the perfect words to capture such a complicated profession, it is nice to know I am not the only one :)

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Recent Comments

  • Jennie: I am so glad to meet someone else going through read more
  • Beth from VB: HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love when the technophiles FINALLY want to contribute on read more
  • Renee Moore, NBCT: The taping was absolutely the most trying part of Board read more
  • Gail Ritchie: Emmet, We all think videotaping will be easy, since we read more




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