The boom mike bobbed above my head, held high by an eighth grader with determination in her eyes. She was helping a senior from a high school just up the road who had come to Diegueño to film an orientation video for our incoming seventh graders.

photo 2 (7)He’d given her direction, patiently helped her figure out the boom mike’s wires, and reassured her when the cord pulled the camera from its tripod and sent it clattering to the cement.

From my perspective as a fellow who has spent more than two decades in schools, his poise and patience reminded me of the best educators I know. I love giving students the freedom to attempt big projects and figure out how to accomplish what they want in their own ways. Watching these students working together, their student leader clear and kind, my faith in the next generation was validated.

Listening to my senior filmmaker talk with the middle schoolers who had stepped up to help him, I heard what I’ve learned to recognize as good teaching.

With a smile, he explained what the goal was for each shot, a little about the equipment he was using, and what he needed his crew to do. He answered questions and asked his own, getting to know the eighth graders with a conversational ease beyond his years.

photo 1 (10)The result was that his assistants were invested, they felt useful, and they seemed to be having fun. It’s just a slice of a Friday afternoon, but I believe that it’s an experience that they’ll remember.

While I’m convinced that the product will turn out well, watching the students work together, my young Kurosawa juggling dollies, squinting to envision angles, and bringing his crew together, I believe that the lasting value of this enterprise will be the process.

The learning is in the doing. In making, we understand.

We’re at our best in education when we turn the proverbial camera over to the kids and let them raise their directorial hands and say: “3-2-1-action!”

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