Written by Rachel K. Sreebny
Oops I Majored in Film School
When I was 21, I graduated from the film and video program at RIT in Upstate “yep that’s a 10 foot wall of snow” New York. Making movies was cool, but finding jobs where you got to make movies was hard. So, I followed the lead of many of my friends and took a summer position teaching the movie-making courses at iD Tech at the University of Washington in Seattle. Why Seattle? No walls of snow. I would take my chances with the rain.
It turns out there is no rain in Seattle in the summer. The anti-tourism committee does a good job of promoting this fallacy. And while I had expected to enjoy my summer at the iD Tech Camp, I didn’t realize that it would spark a new excitement in my life that would drive my career for the next decade: Kids.
While I had been learning all about F-stops, splicing, and how to “fix it all in post,” I had never really interacted with kids before, and it was way more fun than making movies with grown-ups. Kids are curious, spontaneous, and creative! They are excited to work together and to contribute their ideas, which made for some pretty fun short films. My most favorite was “Untitled Zombie Frisbee Project,” which was created, shot, acted, and edited by five 12-year olds at UW under my supervision. There was no going back.
Even in my student films, I used child actors!
How iD Tech Fit In
I spent the next eight years teaching. I taught English in Japan, I tutored math and reading at a Kumon Center, and eventually I earned my Master’s in Teaching and secured a full-time teaching job at a public elementary school. Every summer, however, was devoted to directing at iD Tech. I would put down my textbooks and gradebook and remember what it’s like to feel joy and excitement in the learning process.
A second grade class in Kyoto, Japan. These kids are all in high school now.
Don’t get me wrong, I made learning fun, too. But there are only so many ways you can connect literacy and mathematics to pizza parties and choreographed dances before your principal wants to have a conversation. I was frequently told at school that, “It was a bit too loud and fun” in my classroom. Ironically, I was frequently told by my location managers at UW that my directing style could get “a little too school-y.” I worked hard to find the balance.
iD Tech, aside from being a great way to supplement my public school teacher income, was also a gateway into what kids loved. As we know, the things kids love change all the time! Through iD Tech I witnessed Internet phenomenons including “Over 9000,” “Nyan Cat,” “Rick Rollin’,” “Troll-la-la,” and “Dream Hands.” Don’t even get me started on Minecraft. These are not things I would have gleaned from a staff meeting about the Common Core Standards, I assure you. Are Internet memes important? I would argue yes. They helped me to connect with my students every year, and gave me insight into what kids see when they aren’t in the four walls of their classroom! Essentially, iD Tech helped me stay “cool and with it,” although I think the execution of this sentence may have just eclipsed my street cred.
Why I Made the Switch
So here I am, a Hiring Manager, and no longer a teacher. I’ll spare you the details of my traumatic exit from my school. It was one of the hardest few weeks of my life, but also solidified my reasons for making the switch: support and community.
I did not have a lot of support or community at my school. I had good teaching evaluations, and a thoughtful kind team of teachers to work with. But I needed more. I was looking for the kind of management who helps me realize the little things I do to get kids who have the hardest home lives smiling and learning. I needed career advice, not just advice on decorating bulletin boards. I wanted to grow and to push myself, and I was not getting this at my school. I think in the end, these were my reasons for leaving my career as a teacher.
Here I am with two staff who were both former campers at iD, and who went onto become Assistant Directors and Directors!
Why Use My Summer Vacation to Work?
Why indeed! Teachers definitely need a break from all the work we have to do. By the time you get to summer, it can be hard to imagine jumping into the role where you have to manage young staff and students 50-60 hours per week! It’s definitely not for everyone.
For those of us who love teaching and impacting kids daily, you’re going to spend your summer thinking about teaching no matter what. Most of us will do professional development or start planning units for the next year. It’s inevitable, and it can be a lot of fun. iD Tech for me was a way to recharge my “fun” batteries by playing with kids and to mentor staff in a lower stakes environment (no standardized tests!!!). The summers helped me to remember a less serious side, more capable of myself. The paychecks definitely didn’t hurt either.
So why iD Tech during the summer? Why not? You don’t stop being a teacher, kids don’t stop learning, so why not blend the two activities and add the potential for a pie in the face? You might find that it makes you smile before Christmas…
Rachel’s Author Bio
Rachel has worked as a Hiring Manager for iD Tech since 2014. Prior to that, she taught 3rd grade and math interventions and moonlighted as a Director for the iD Tech Camp at the UW for five seasons. Rachel has earned a BFA in Film & Video Production from RIT (2006) and a Masters Degree in Teaching from Seattle University (2011). Currently, Rachel lives in Seattle with her husband, two cats, and one corgi. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys watching movies, blogging, and convincing people she doesn’t mind the rainy cold weather in Seattle all winter.