Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feedback: A Bit Off Topic

Besides teaching science and broadcasting, I am also a cameraman for the Kansas City Royals.  This morning it really hit me how different the environment is there and how it has helped me improve significantly as a cameraman.  

I started working for the Royals 6 years ago on the “front row” these are the guys that run all the statistics on the scoreboard.  My first job was to look at situational statistics and decide what made our players look the best, and put those statistics on the scoreboard.  I got paid for doing this which made me officially a “professional nerd.”  I only worked about 10 games my first year as a backup to the backup.  One day as I was coming in I happened to be riding the elevator up with my boss.  He asked me if I had ever run a camera.  I told him that I had not but I could learn.  Two days later I was running a camera.  When I first started, I basically knew how to zoom in and how to focus.  I barely knew how to break the camera down at the end of the night and if anything else went wrong, I had no clue.  

Fast forward 6 years and I now work every game that I want and the majority of the time I am on Camera 1, which is right next to the Royals dugout.  I am also the backup fancam operator - the one that roves around the stadium.  I worked the All Star Game on camera, I’ve had shots used by TV, including the MLB network, and I’ve started to get asked to work camera outside the Royals including the NAIA championship.  

I’ve improved a lot since that first shaky shot from the upper deck.  This morning I was thinking about how I was able to improve as a camera operator and a couple of things struck me.  Last night I had 2-3 shots where someone in the booth, either the director, or technical director said nice shot, or nice move.  Really small things but they mean a lot.   Every time I get a positive reinforcement like that, I want to do something even better.  

Running a camera everything that you do is noticed, either by someone seeing your shot, or another camera person having you in their shot.  (For example the other night Miguel Cabrera fouled a ball off that was no where near me, but I just caught movement out of the corner of my eye, and I flinched - big time.  By coincidence another camera happened to have me in their frame and one of the guys in the booth saw me flinch.  It then got replayed and I got laughed at a lot.)

I guess where I’m going with this is that there is constant immediate feedback, both good and bad.  If your focus is off, pan off while you are still live to the board, or if you do something cool, it gets noticed.  I think this is one of the reasons I’ve improved.  Not only does the feedback help, but I really want to hear one of the guys say something good about one of my shots.  One of the most powerful things that anyone has ever said to me was the first day I ran the fancam.  The director told me that he wanted me to be awesome and that he would rather me fail trying to be awesome than to try to be safe.  That one sentence made it click.

When was the last time I got immediate feedback, or any feedback on my instruction?   The most thorough feedback I’ve ever gotten on my teaching was when I was student teaching 16 years ago.  My cooperating teacher would leave notes on my desk after lessons with positives and things I needed to work on.  These notes were amazing and this is a practice I’ve used with student teachers I have had.  I also had my assistant principal come in and observe a lesson.  He followed me around to groups and scripted everything that was said and done, then we met and he broke down the entire lesson and asked really difficult questions.  Questions that made me think about how I had been doing things, and that opened my eyes to what could be better.   I still remember him asking me what happened to the small groups when I left them to work with another group.  I had no idea.  

I know this seems like I’m throwing those that have done evaluations under the bus, and I’m truly not trying to do that.  I know they are slammed with a lot of evaluations, and a million other things to do.  I just think it is interesting to make a connection to how I’ve gone from having no experience on a professional camera (and only 1 week of broadcast training before that) and in 6 years I’m one of the go to camera guys for the Royals (and still no where nearly as good as the TV guys . . . wow are they awesome!).  Ultimately, for teachers to get better administrators, instructional coaches and other teachers need to be in classrooms.  We can’t be afraid of feedback, even if it is negative.  If you have a bad shot, shake it off and move on.  We’ve all had lessons we wished we could do over.   How, as a profession are we supposed to improve without feedback?  Are you afraid of feedback?  What kind of feedback is important to you?  How can I take this lesson and use it to help my students, especially with all of them having computers?

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