Woah, T.T.M., Total Teacher Moment

I’m sure TTM isn’t an actual acronym, or if it is,  it isn’t widely used. But I was trying to think of a way to phrase those rare moments as an educator when your students show that spark of growth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a teacher for three years now and most days I enjoy it. But, some days I  want to break all my classroom chairs and pull my hair out and scream at the top of my lungs. And then every once in a while you get a moment, that really touches you, that make all the chair breaking hair pulling fantasy days worth it.

At the end of each semester, our 9th grade students graduate from middle school and prepare to move to the senior high school. They go through rigorous placement exams and the process is quite stressful for them. As a part of the ESL curriculum the students who have passed the placement exams for senior high school get to do a special project. We have a music video remake competition. Each class of 25 students (of which there are 24 classes) picks one English song they like to make their own, or re-make the music video of, the top 10 videos are chosen then we hold a viewing and the students vote on their favorite video. A fun way to end junior high school ESL.

Last year I was thrilled with my classes’ remake of Taylor Swifts “22”. This year I have to admit I was quite frustrated with the lack of motivation most of my classes showed for the project. One particular class chose the song “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth, I am not to up-to-date on my tweener pop at the moment so I’d never heard it before they played it for me. Story line: A guy loves a girl, she has a boyfriend who isn’t very nice to her, the guy wins her over in the end for being a nice guy.

My class asked if they could change the story line so it was a guy in love with another guy who had a girlfriend who wasn’t nice to him. I told them “Of course. It’s your video it’s your story” not thinking much of it. The week before the submission was due, I approached our student director (whom I suspected for some time is gay, but they are at that age where I am not really sure if he knows it or not yet) and asked about the speaking portion of our video. Part of the contest requirement is that we need to have an English-speaking  introduction. He said I have an idea, can I bring it to you tomorrow at lunch time. And I said sure, annoyed that I would have to spend yet another lunch break on this project.

The next day at lunch he showed up to my classroom and showed me his idea. He’d written a poem that he wanted to read in the beginning of the video before the lyrics started. As I read the poem, it suddenly hit me. The video was about him. His poem was about his struggle feeling different from everybody else, and not being free to love who he loved. His class had chosen to change the story in support of him. I almost cried it was so sweet. As a teacher I couldn’t help but be proud, even though it was none of my doing. The feeling of wow my class did that is the most rewarding feeling a teacher can hope to have.

This is the cinematic masterpiece that resulted:

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