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Back at NYU

February 16, 2012

It’s an odd thing to stand in front of a group of students and not know what to say. It’s a feeling that I have not experienced since I was a student myself and had never experienced from the perspective of a teacher. Until last week.

I always thought that I would like teaching and I knew I wanted to try it someday. The opportunity presented itself last month when the new chair of the film program at NYU contacted me and asked if I was interested in doing six weeks about the post-production process. I accepted. They gave me back my same NYU ID number: zsp200 is back in circulation.

I am now teaching two sections each week. One class has 13 students and one has 17 students. Each class is an hour and 15 minutes long and they both cover the same stuff. After one week, I became convinced that one class loves me and one class hates me.

The mistakes started in the fancy copy room on the 11th floor of 721 Broadway when, early in the morning, I mixed up which section I was teaching that day and only made 15 copies of the handouts I was going to give them. (I thought 15 was two extra but actually it was two few.)

I arrived in the classroom and tested the DVD player. I was to show a 45-minute version of “The Cutting Edge,” a documentary about film editing. Yes, I had thought about how there’s a romantic comedy about ice skating called “The Cutting Edge.” Yes, I planned to make that joke. I was that kind of prepared.

NYU had given me a six-week syllabus and some examples throughout to show the class. Also, one of my favorite professors from back in the day was teaching the other two sections and he had been super helpful giving me tips and pointers. My “teaching kit” also included a short book that I was going to assign, “In the Blink of an Eye,” by Walter Murch. It’s an editor’s classic and thankfully I know it well.

I hadn’t thought about what I was going to do before the class actually started and this occurred to me as the first student arrived. She looked younger than I expected.

“Morning,” I said.

“Morning,” she answered and sat down. I wondered about making conversation but had no idea what to say. What do most teachers do? I couldn’t remember, and I silently decided to show up later for the next class. The second student arrived and then a third. They trickled in quickly leading up to 9:30.

I waited five minutes and took attendance. This was another thing I was dreading after a lifetime of teachers butchering my name. I told them that before I butchered all of theirs—one at a time.