How Tasting Beer Made Me a Better Teacher

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I like to make videos and take pictures. I like how moving a camera around tells a story. I like being behind the camera.

A while back, Robert the worship director at my church tried to convince me to start a podcast we would taste beer (read: talk in front of a camera) and talk about it. Sort of like Wine Library TV, except we don’t really know what we’re doing, neither of us had been in front of a camera, and we would drink beer instead of wine. I am comfortable shooting and editing video, but I did not like being in video. Despite hating how I look or sound on video, Robert and I jumped into video podcasting. (After all, I knew how to build a website with a podcast feed, so I kind of had to.)

In a seemingly unrelated event, I moved from teaching kindergarten to elementary music, and with it, my student load grew from 20 to 500. I went from seeing the same kids every day for six hours to seeing them one hour per week. And I was left with this huge disconnect between what I wanted to do with my students, and what I had time to do with my students. I needed to be able to connect with my students more than one hour per week. Seriously, how can you expect to accomplish anything substantial in 60 minutes per week? Then it hit me–I needed to start creating videos for my classroom. I would walk beginning band students through the basics: setting up their instrument, playing the first few exercises in the book, and reading more complicated sheets of music.

At some point along the way, I went from being a behind-the-scenes guy to feeling comfortable in front of a camera. Had I not had the experience with the beer podcasts, I would not have created a series of videos for my 500 students.

In some ways, this is what Ed Tech courses are supposed to be–they give you a chance to practice a skill and become comfortable with it. By the time you actually want to incorporate that skill into your classroom, you are confident and prepared.

So, if you’re not comfortable with a particular skill set (like video podcasting), start now with something silly. Seriously, go get started now.

When I look back at the first few episodes of the West Coast Beercast, I realize how little I knew about video production from an in-front-of-the-lens perspective, and how little I understood about screen presence. Now, I’m comfortable in front of the camera, and I am able to quickly and effectively communicate with others through video, whether it’s explaining what a quarter rest is, or what a Weihenstephaner tastes like.