Teach Youth to Make Media for the World

“I look for professional quality because they’re capable of it!” says Ms. Thato Mwosa.  “Don’t be mediocre – be great.”

Ms. Mwosa teaches TV Production at Madison Park High Technical Vocational High School, part of Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) partner Boston Public Schools. “I tell my students to make their work as professional as possible – ‘We’re not making something for the classroom. The point is you’re making things for the world.'”

In teaching media production, she emphasizes these key steps:

  1. Idea
  2. One on one session with each student
  3. Treatment
  4. Storyboard

Ms. Mwosa describes how she sets up a disciplined but creative process: “I give them direction along the way. I don’t give them the camera until I see their storyboard. This is how it is in the industry. If you have an idea, you just don’t grab a camera and go shooting without prep work.” She structures an environment where her students work as creative professionals, and she sets high expectations: “Don’t show a B- when you can show an A+.” Her students are asked to be accountable for their work, and creative with their ideas. They “know they have to be original. The first thing I teach in the classroom: You cannot use anyone else’s music or images. You have to create your own or get permission from the artist.”

It all begins with an original idea. “They come to me with an idea and I support them.”  It’s their imagination and vision; she just helps with the editing: “I just give them support in post-production and advice on avoiding copyrighted material. I emphasize revising their drafts. As frustrating as the process can be, they’re always happy with the final version. I make sure they think about sound, lighting, and other elements that are as important as story. I tell them, ‘In the industry you don’t make one draft and show it to the world.'”

This year her students Shawn Harrington and Angel Polanco created the music video Tell My Story, and Arvonne Patterson created Queen. Both projects were 2014 AYV Awards finalists. Ms. Mwosa says, “They are artists. Shawn writes music. Arvonne writes poetry. In the past, I would select the type of media for their projects but this year I left it open. I told them, ‘It is your creativity and vision. You do what you want to do. Keep it simple.  Simplicity is best.'”

Her students appreciate the approach she takes. “Our teacher is very creative. She pushes us, gives us constructive criticism,” says Angel. “She wants us to finish our projects,” Shawn says, and Arvonne adds, “She encourages us to be open to our ideas.”

When youth cultivate their own ideas, think expansively about what they’re creating, and strive to refine and complete their work, they are taking themselves seriously as artists. The stakes are higher when they create media for the world. Challenge creativity and it flourishes – in amazing ways.