2nd Shoot on 2nd Thought

Last Tuesday I returned to Villa for a second shoot. I was reluctant, at first, to follow through with this one as the interviewees were recommended to me by the Villa Principal which led me to suspect that they would be model students–and therefore paint a perfect picture of the educational ‘system’ that Villa follows. More specifically, I was concerned that my interviewees may not feel free to openly & constructively comment on their high school education which never makes for good research. I was wrong.

The students I spoke with were A students, yes, but this very fact reinforced and reminded me of the traits in an individual that typically lead to success in the industrialized model of education. Without observing who benefits from this system I am not doing my job; I would be biasing the results in favor of what I feel the best teaching and learning models are–which are alternative.

Michelle, young woman who graduated from Villa in the spring (’10), confessed to being a work-a-holic; so much so that she would miss school dances and peer social gatherings throughout her high school years in lieu of studying. At her young age, she is beginning to realize that she has to slow down and find a balance in her life. Now, if all students were this diligent, wouldn’t they all be A students? It’s not that simple, I know. Not everyone has the same disposition toward this ‘obsessive’ work ethic; or the ability to understand and integrate into this type of educational environment; or have the personal and emotional support to encourage their learning desires and endeavors…

Was Michelle happy overall with the (private school) environment and learning experiences at Villa? Yes, and she already misses the ‘family’ atmosphere that Villa provided. Now there is one of the patters that comes up a lot so far in my interviews with young learners–the need for personal relationships with their teachers no matter the educational environment a student is in; a student needs to feel that they are valued.

Michelle also stressed the need to be challenged in a class, as did Melissa the second student interviewee. For Michelle, the fun and challenging experiences she had in her physics class, for example, had direct impact on the education she chose to pursue in Cegep. She was so enthralled with the dynamic learning environment of that class that it directly influenced her future career ambitions. Interestingly, her physics teacher, Andre, who I interviewed after her also shared how inspired he was by his own physics teacher in high school and how that experience shaped his future career and desire to teach. A lovely example of the generational impact a teacher can have on people’s careers and life choices.

For Melissa, a challenging classroom environment is important, however, academic success at Villa was not reliant on creative teaching because she stated that she has a photographic memory; is that requirement number two to being successful/A student in an industrialized system (a work-a-holic being the other)?

I remember students in my high school years claiming to have photographic memories and I recall feeling full of envy because I always felt that I had a lousy memory… and therefore doomed to struggle.

The fact is, we all have different learning abilities. An interesting link that my academic adviser, Dr. Alexandra Bal, posted in a previous blog post addresses the notion of visual-spacial vs auditory-sequential learners. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman’s explanation of the visual-spacial learner that I can relate to:

Illustration by Buck Jones, 2002 | http://www.buckjonesillustrator.com

Visual-spatial learners are individuals who think in pictures rather than in words. They have a different brain organization than auditory-sequential learners.They learn better visually than auditorally. They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent. They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-part learners who need to see the big picture first before they learn the details…

Where do you fit in?

About cayoup

Colleen Ayoup was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. She has been engaged in media creation for nearly twenty years. After attending the Dawson Institute of Photography (Montreal), she worked as a commercial photographer for several years until the craving for different creative pursuits gave way. This desire led to two subsequent degrees in Psychology/Film Studies and Film Production (B.A., B.F.A) at Concordia University in Montreal. Her short fiction films and documentary, Kings (2001), about drag-king culture in Montreal toured festivals internationally. In 2004, she joined the National Film Board of Canada where she coordinated Doc Shop, a program designed to give emerging filmmakers an opportunity to learn trade skills from industry professionals and produce a short documentary for broadcast on CBC. She also contributed to the development and creation of CitizenShift (citizenshift.org), the NFB’s first social-media website that she subsequently coordinated for five years. She is a recent graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Media at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)