March 2, 2010
— photography, self-confidence, tomorrow's youth organization, triple exposure, youth development, youth photography
One of the facts of teaching that has become increasingly clear to me through my work with Triple Exposure is the sheer unpredictability of how a lesson plan will be received by the students. My charmingly-constructed homemade version of the board game “Cranium,” which I had hoped the kids would enjoy playing as a break from the more “academic” portions of the photo class, was a complete flop. A photo detail game which I thought would take 20 minutes ended up taking the whole class and inspired the kids to take their own detail photos next class…and then play the game again!
The game was equally fun for me: any teacher would be proud to witness the enjoyment and dedication to solving puzzles that I saw in these kids. I was particularly delighted, however, to note that one of my students, Mohammed, was engaged and excited like I’ve never seen him before.
I’ve known Mohammed since June 2009, when he was in a science class at the TYO summer camp. His teacher struggled with his inability to get along with the children, and she confided in me how Mohammed was quickly prone to anger, getting very upset with other students or even the class volunteers over classroom disagreements or frustrations. He would occasionally get so upset as to hit another student, which led to a series of conversations between him and his teacher about how to deal with his emotions and with conflict.
In the fall, Mohammed was placed into my photography class, and soon thereafter I had a few similar conversations with him in response to one or two incidents in class. After the first few weeks of class, Mohammed became much less prone to anger or physical violence, but he remained shy, withdrawn, and unwilling to share his photos with his classmates during group discussions. Confident that behavioral progress has to happen in steps, I and the volunteers would worked with him more individually, giving him the additional encouragement and guidance that he needed on the creative projects we focused on in the Fall. I happily noticed that although he would work more slowly than the other students, he showed great dedication to finishing his projects, often continuing to quietly work at his table after other students finished and the classroom would get rowdy. Ignoring the rowdiness, Mohammed would always bring me his completed project to review, and I would smile and praise his work, taking a special delight in signs of his confidence increasing.
As we played the photo game, for the first time Mohammed showed a burgeoning confidence in front of the other students, excitedly offering his ideas on what the mysterious object in a photo could be. Each time I projected a new photo for the class to guess, the room would erupt into noise (we’re still working on the ‘raise your hand to answer’ concept), but this was no problem for Mo, for each time I came to his table to hear his group’s guess he did everything he could to raise his voice above the din.
There is certainly still progress to be made in working with 13-year old Mohammed (as with all my students) to be more extroverted, creative, confident, and innovative, but there is nothing more encouraging than these signs of improvement!