How do you decide the subjects of your films?
I wish I had a better answer for this, but more often than not, I think about a subject and try to come up with a handful of jokes, or a good angle at making it accessible. Then I start building from there. It really doesn't have much to do with what I think is the most important literature ever.

Do you have better quality copies of your films?
We're getting there. I'm getting there. One of the most humbling things I've discovered about most of the films I've created is that their popularity grows over time--which means some of my earlier films are in high demand. And the production quality of some of them leaves a lot to be desired. So I've started remastering them when I can. Shakespeare got the first treatment. American Lit should be next in line.

My school bans YouTube. Is there another way to watch your films in the classroom?
Yes. Don't give in to those fascists who are trying to protect the children's innocence. Go straight to ww.teachertube.com, search for "jamesdhogan," and stick it to 'em!

I'd love to show your video on ____ in my classroom, but there's that one little part I think is over the top. Can't you edit that part out?
The line between acceptable humor and not safe for the classroom humor is a blurry one, and it's not the same for any teacher. Your job is to decide where you toe the line. For the record, I screen every film for my darling wife, who is a superstar elementary music teacher and also my award winning censor. She usually stops me before I go too far. So go ahead, show the film in your classroom. If anyone complains, please forward their responses to me. I get a kick out of things like that.

Do you miss teaching?
Yes and no. I miss the classroom, and I miss the brilliant interactions my students and I shared. What I didn't pick up on in college, though, is that teaching is a job, and to stay alive in that profession, you have to be able to treat your career as an educator as a job. I've met a lot of excellent teachers who suffered from martyrdom syndrom. What they seem to forget is that martyrs die in the end. Long story short, I loved education too much to be able to figure out how to treat it as only a job, and that was my mistake. If you're a teacher, I'll pass on a simple bit of advice: remember, you won't do your students any good if you burn out, get kicked out, or otherwise flame out. Stay alive, stay in the classroom, and even though you might turn into that mid-career hunchback in the math department, realize you can do a lot of good things in the classroom that are otherwise impossible outside of it. Unless, of course, you happen to be good at making goofball videos.

Can I buy your videos?
No. And I don't typically offer them up for downloading, either. I encourage folks to watch them via YouTube of Teacher Tube. That way the conversation, feedback, and response happens in one place. Also, you might notice I tend to use a lot of contemporary music and other materials in the films that comes from studios other than Teach Kids. That makes me a bad person in the eyes of the copyright gods, but I only hope St. Pete can pardon me for only trying to do good in this world by shining the gospel light of good English for students who could use a vacation from the darkness. So no, I cannot take your money or give them to you.

You know Shakespeare didn't really write all that stuff, right?
Dude, you've gotta calm down. Most of the world's 7 billion people (give or take) don't know or care about the conspiracy theories behind whether or not Shakespeare was Shakespeare. Tackle the important conspiracy theories first, like the ones that may or may not affect world peace, and then we'll come back to the Marlow/Shakespeare debate--if there's time.

Who are Libby Campbell and Steven R. Stobbe?
I'm glad you noticed these two names. Libby Campbell (to whom the HD version of Shakespeare: Brief and Naughty is dedicated) was my middle school Language Arts teacher, and Steve Stobbe (to whom Dante's Inferno: Oh, Hell! is dedicated) was my senior AP English Literature teacher. Both affected me greatly as a student, and both delivered great influence on who I ultimately became as a teacher. I have deep admiration and love for Mrs. Campbell and Mr. Stobbe, and dedicating these two videos is a pittance toward the gratitude I truly owe them.

That leads me to a more existential question, though--

How did you decide on "Teach Kids" as the name of your company?
"Teach Kids" has long been my educational philosophy. However, every time I mention "my" philosophy of "teach kids," I feel I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my high school English teacher and frequent mentor, Steven R. Stobbe, whose advice and wisdom as I navigated college and my brief career as an educator always encouraged me to block out the tangential issues that plague our classrooms--end of course tests, red tape, politics, etc.--and focus on teaching kids. I can't begin to remember how many emails I received from Stobbe that included the line "teach kids." I consider the phrase to be his, and I am grateful that he's let me borrow it as often as I have. (Read more on why I taught here: http://www.forum.jamesdhogan.com/2012/04/dear-teacher-why-i-taught.html)

Feel free to add your own questions in the comments box below.

1 comment:

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