Project of Love

projectorMy youngest son is graduating from 8th grade this month. He is graduating from the school I worked at as a tech coordinator/computer teacher for 6 years. His class is full of really awesome young people that I enjoyed teaching and miss very much. I have the privilege of working with some of their moms on a special project these past few weeks. Every year, for as long as anyone can remember, the parents of the graduating class put together a slide show of pictures from 11 years of their lives, starting with pre-school. I can only imagine what the slide show must have been like back in the days of slide projectors and carousels.

My first experience with this project was several years ago, when my daughter, who is a sophomore in college, was in 8th grade. Another mom who was also an ambitious techy, and I were co-chairs for the slide show committee. Before her and I took on the task, computer created slide shows were left up to the professionals. She proposed we save some money and make the video ourselves. With a purchase of a G4 PowerMac and a day spent learning the “brand new” iMovie application, we were on our way. The process was grueling. We had to sift through over 1000 pictures, scan several hundred of them, pick themes, music, and then use this unfamiliar application to put it all together. The whole process was quite an adventure. The parent group was extremely engaged and willing to work tirelessly, but most of the editing was left up to me, since I had the most time and inclination to learn the program. I learned a lot during those few weeks, not only about iMovie, but about perseverance, problem solving, collaboration and creativity. I am certain that those sleepless nights hunched over the keyboard staring at the screen with a cranky computer made me a better technology teacher, practicing skills that I know are so important for my students.

Two years later, it was time to co-chair the slide show for my middle son. My family threatened to commit me to a rubber room – remembering the extraordinary time commitment. This time it went a little better. The committee was way sillier, making our time together a lot of fun – (working hard at the meeting, indeed). Some of the pictures were coming in on disc, so much less scanning was needed. iMovie had a few updates, so crashes happened less often. I still spent several hours bonding with iMovie and an eMac, but the results were beautiful and I felt like we really outdid ourselves.

Now, I’m working on my last 8th grade video. Technically, it has gotten much easier. Everyone has a digital camera, and iMovie and iDVD are “wicked fast”. My husband is teasing me that this the last time I’ll be on a committee that meets once a week to agonize over 600 pictures and song lyrics from every song produced since the ’70’s. He gets irritated when I’m hunched over my computer (MacBook this time) working on the slide show for hours at a time. Thankfully, the bulk of the editing is done by another mom who is just as obsessively techy. I tried to explain to him that it’s not about the debate over this picture or that, or using a certain song during a certain section. We are not spending hours trying to perfect a 30 minute video that the kids are probably only going to look at once for our own egos. This project means much more to us.

We spend hours in meetings pouring over pictures and listening to song lyrics, and more hours putting it all together because we care about the story. This video is the story of the kids that spent almost their entire lives together. We understand how much it means to the graduates and their parents to see the recap of important events like first days, first best friends, first communion, and first crushes. We try very hard to represent the children and the school in a way that reflects the love that surrounds them. We do crazy stuff like count every child so they are in the video in almost equal number – taking pictures at school at the last minute to make up for the under-represented. We watch sections several times to make sure the song enhances the images. We edit and re-edit the video to eliminate tiny glitches that only we will notice. We burn the DVDs and wrap them in fancy paper like it’s the most important gift we’ve ever given. It’s hard to explain how compelling it is to be involved in telling this story, until the night of the Graduation dinner, when the lights go down, the projector turns on and the 80 kids excitedly drag their chairs over in a huge clump in anticipation for an event that has become a tradition. It’s not about the technology, the meetings, or the hard work….it’s about the story.

Congratulations class of 2008!