Saturday, February 05, 2011

Of Secret Lives And Not-So-Secret Lives

The following is a guest post by NOVA's Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers producer, Tom Miller.

When I was a little boy, I loved the Apollo astronauts, the Beatles and drawing. What I especially enjoyed about drawing was making pictures move. Flipbooks were my medium of choice – I could do that kind of thing all day long and never get bored. So it is probably no surprise that in my current “grown-up” incarnation, I am a video and web producer. Specifically, I produce NOVA’s “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.” I am still making pictures move. And borderline miraculously, I get paid to do it; thanks to viewers like you!

Now somewhere in between my astronaut/flipbook years and oh about 20 years ago, I did have my own secret life. I wasn’t trying to live a secret at the time; it’s just that most of the people in my world now don’t know much about that period in my life. They’re usually surprised to learn that for many years, I taught and did social work in New York City. Looking back now, though, I feel like a lot of what I loved about that kind of work is similar to what I love about the work I do now – I get to meet people whom I might never meet otherwise; I hear their stories; and I interact with them in ways that are meaningful for them and for me. Of course, now I get to retell the stories that I hear, craft them into something that’s (hopefully) funny or informative or cool and share them with an audience. And that suits me just fine, in fact, way better than fine.

So why have I just told you my life story?

Well, the thing is that because of my “secret life,” I have a very deep appreciation of the work that teachers do. I never had to teach a roomful of thirty kids with all kinds of learning styles and skill levels all over the map (I mostly taught literacy to teenagers and adults). I honestly don’t know how people like Lee and you all (I’m assuming most of you are teachers) do it every day. The in-the-trenches work of teaching our kids, helping them build a foundation for their future learning and for their lives, all the while not getting paid a mint to do it… I am in awe of teachers. 

And that is a big part of why I’m thrilled that so many teachers are using our show with their students. It was terrific to read all of your proposals for how you would use the InFocus projector along with “Secret Life” in your classrooms, libraries and computer labs. (And huge congratulations to the winner of that projector, Shannon Walters!) The entire “Secret Life” team is incredibly grateful to you for the creative ways that you are using our series to help kids connect with science, engineering and so many other subjects. And we are especially grateful to the GeekyMomma herself, Lee Kolbert, for so enthusiastically spreading the word about “Secret Life” (thank you, Lee, and thanks for the soapbox, too).

So it is a treat for us to hear your stories. And we hope to hear more.

And I’m thankful that what was my secret life is your not-so-secret life. You’re way better at it than I ever could have been!

1 comment:

Melissa Johnston said...

I love Tom's comment about making meaningful contact with people. As humans we are all searching for at least one meaningful connection. For those of us lucky enough to be called teacher, we have the opportunity to make that connection with the masses who pass through our classroom doors each year.

And, glad to see the piece on Synesthesia on Nova. Very interesting.