Monday, September 28, 2015

A picture is worth a few words, probably very few.

I take photos of students when they fall asleep during lessons.  I print them out and put them on a bulletin board in my classroom.

Why would I do such a thing?  Allow me to give my educational-sounding explanation first.

I teach yearbook and journalism, so photography is part of what I teach.  Students need to understand that to be a photojournalist, they must constantly be ready for anything.  Interesting events happen all the time around the school, so it’s important to document them.

“But why photos of sleeping students?  That’s not very interesting,” you may say.  My response to that is that taking photos of someone snoozing in class is good practice.  You learn how lighting, angles and shadows affect your subject.  You learn how to take the shot without disturbing your subject, and candid shots are always better than posed ones.  Some photos of sleepers can be hilarious, or even artistic.  What better way to demonstrate to the students how to practice than to have them shoot something they see every day, which is a teen falling asleep in class?  That's why the camera is always ready on my desk. 

That’s the explanation I give to administrators and sometimes to parents.

The students already know the purpose of the sleeping pictures: public humiliation.  As the teacher, I’m documenting how many times a student is out of it in my class, while capturing the bobbing head and trail of drool at the same time.  It’s fun when parents come in to talk about their child’s performance in my class and look up to see a photo of their angel snoring away.  

“Ms. Marlowe, you CAN’T put my photo up!  That’s not fair!  I didn’t give you permission!” students will sometimes protest, thinking that the rules of social media apply here.  I kindly point out that this is MY classroom, MY camera, it’s a PUBLIC space, and that any photos I take are the property of the school and me, so tough luck.  Some students have tried to tear down their pictures, but most just stop complaining when they see they’re in good company.  The rest try harder to stay alert.  I’m an equal opportunity shamer, and I'll get a shot of anyone who's napping.   

The real reason?  It’s funny and injects some much-needed humor into the classroom.  So allow me to end with a few choice photos of former students.