Managing the Media SAT Process

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In the Year 12 Media classroom, Term 3 is not only a busy term theoretically (as most of us tackle both the Media Texts and Society’s Values and Media Influence topics), but also a hectic time practically, as our students complete their SAT. The students may have one huge process to manage, but sometimes, it can feel that we as their teachers have the sum of 1 x X, (where X is the number of students in our class) SATs to manage. No easy feat.

At the end of the day though, it is THEIR process. We may have surrendered the ideas, acted in the films (always as the ‘mean teacher’ in the detention scene) and held their hands as they completed their Production Exercises and PDPs, but now it’s over to them for the final stretch and, hopefully, a really brilliant realisation of all they hoped for.

So how is this all best done? How do we get them to the finish-line in the best shape and form? How do we not lose our minds when work, files, hard drive space and a little bit of sanity seems to disappear each day? Experienced teachers probably have this down pat, but even after 13 years of doing this, I’ll admit that SAT time still makes me a little nervous. In truth, I think the real answer to all of the above is that there is no answer. The beauty of teaching is that we are the ‘experts’ when it comes to our own classrooms and students. There are many, many ways to tackle the SAT. I personally am always looking for a way to make the process as smooth and organised, yet still as inspired and creative, as possible. Each year presents new challenges but it does get a little bit better each time.

Here’s a few SAT teaching tips that I’ve learnt (from my own classes and my fabulous Media teacher associates) over the years. I hope that they provide some new thoughts on how you can make this SAT process the best one yet.
* Spend some time in class after the June/July holidays getting a real picture of who has done what (‘real’ being the important word there). Does “Oh yeah, I filmed” actually mean the production stage has been completed or just started? This discussion will give you an idea of the work still needing to be done. And then comes the time to be frank with students….if they are behind where you would like them to be or if reshooting is a ‘must’, you need to make this clear. They have never been through this process before and they will look to you for guidance and timelines. Structure is your (and their) friend.

* Take the time to work out who needs what equipment/computer access and try and manage this fairly. At the end of the day, you don’t want students to use the excuse “…but I didn’t have a camera!” when the SAT isn’t submitted. I know of schools that give each student 1 or 2 weeks of access to equipment only, before it gets given to someone else. This is one way to ration the supplies. If you have enough equipment to go around, great! But if not, encourage the students choose a ‘buddy’ with whom they share everything with. If they choose this person themselves, they are going to be more comfortable communicating with who they may be sharing with. This will make negotiations easier (and more friendly…hopefully).

* Look at how your school manages equipment access. Can the students take equipment home? If so, this will save precious hours of time when they may have to be supervised if working at school. Can they edit in their spare periods? Can they come in before school, at lunch or afterschool? These are all valuable working times…if your school allows it. Ensure that the amount of supervision you can/will/should provide students at these times is clear. Be wary of offering too much support and access time…sometimes if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile and you will still be working at 8pm on a Friday evening when you promised you could ‘stay a little later after school’. Sure…you may still need to run the occasional late night or weekend session, but with some careful planning, these can hopefully be kept to a minimum.

* Provide access to instruction manuals for all equipment and programs, so as to allow students to ‘help’ themselves. This will hopefully encourage some level of proactive behaviour from your students when they encounter difficulties, less excuses when things don’t work out and fewer interruptions to your day and other classes.

* Schedule some ‘showings’ during the Term. I usually do one two weeks into Term 3, where I expect to see a ‘rough cut’ of each product, then another 4 weeks into Term 3, where I expect 90% of the SAT to be done. It’s at this stage where we pick up on problems such as sound, printing, colour etc. before it is too late. There’s then time for final touch-ups and annotations to PDPs before the submission date (mine is late August), resulting in a more polished product. In my experience, these showings help to get students working earlier, rather than later. It is also useful for authentication purposes. In an ideal world, every student would stick to dates. This is not always the reality in schools. But we can try.

* Schedule compulsory ‘check ins’ with the students who don’t get you to look at their work all the time. Some love keeping things a ‘surprise’ until the screening night (nervous teacher, much?!) or not sharing until the work is absolutely perfect (is it only girls who are notorious for this?) Feedback throughout the process is invaluable. Some will not ask, so you have to offer it (and by offer, I mean pry their hands away from the computer screen and press play!).

* Consider if you will (or can) offer any class time for the SAT. I don’t offer much at all – maybe just a class now and then. This will all depend on equipment access, what else you need to get done and when your work is due. I give very little homework during Term 3, as the expectation is that the SAT is mainly completed in the student’s ‘own’ time. Some schools have a period of time (a few weeks, for example) when everyone works on the SAT together at the same time, as one big happy SAT-loving community. Hey, if it works, then by all means, go for it.

* Choose a due date that works for you, your students and your school. Know when the marks need to be submitted to VCAA and consider making your own due date well before this. After all, you need time to mark (and possibly cross-mark) the work, plus you never know when a student may need an extension for what (of course) will be highly legitimate reasons. You need to have a ‘window’ of time when all these things can be considered…if they arise.

* Back-up…everything and often. Hard drives or exporting to tape is the best way to do this. Don’t try and save/move files across servers. Enough said.

Keep calm and render on (or magic eraser, or hyperlink, or layer etc….whatever your medium may be).