Lights, Camera, JOY!

Lights, Camera, JOY!

by Shara Bumgarner, Head of School

The best ideas often come from the most unexpected sources. More often than not, they come from TJS students!

Last fall I got a call from TJS alumna Kate Montgomery. She recently graduated from Sarah Lawrence College where she studied filmmaking. Kate called hoping to work on a project for The Joy School. Shortly after our call, the perfect video idea came to me.

Unanswered Questions

Flashback two years ago when I met Anya Edelman, a new fourth grader at the time, who had lots of questions. Lots. Of. Questions. Anya is an amazing young lady who happened to Google "schools for kids with learning differences" on her own before talking to her parents about switching schools. Anya had a great interview and visit day with us, but after Switch Day (the day all TJS students try out their class placements for the following year), she came back to ask more questions. Some were typical kid questions, but many were complicated, in-depth questions that I usually answer for parents during tours.

I realized two things that day. One, Anya was going to keep us on our toes! Two, she brought to light many questions kids may wonder about but may not have the courage or language skills to ask. I decided Anya and I should work on a project to help answer questions for new students.

TJS Alumna Kate Montgomery filming at TJS

For Kids, By Kids

After brainstorming with our alumna, Kate, and getting her enthusiastic investment in the idea, we were off and running. We decided our project would be a series of short videos "for kids, by kids" answering questions many students have when they first hear about The Joy School. To get started, I sent a video message to our entire middle school student body asking for their help to both generate and answer questions for the video.

I was blown away by the number of students who willingly gave up their lunch and recess time to help craft these questions. I was impressed with their thoughtful critiques, especially the revision of the word "unusual" to the word "unique" to describe our school. Since the majority of our new students are in second through fifth grade, we decided incoming students would want to hear from current students who were not too much older or younger than them.

Neither Snow, Nor Rain...

As luck would have it, it flooded on our filming day. We had to cancel school. Before I could even formulate a plan to reschedule interviews with Kate's film crew from New York, my phone was going crazy with parents asking about the back up plans because their kids were so disappointed at the possibility they would not be interviewed.

After the rain died down, all fourteen participants made it to TJS to complete their interviews. Once again, I was amazed at the level of dedication these students showed. They could have chosen to stay at home in their pajamas, but instead, they willingly donned their school uniforms and made the trip across town to honor their commitment.

The Highlight of My Year

I hope you will take the time to visit our website and see the amazing final products. We ended up with ten short videos answering a wide range of questions from "What advice would you give students who are nervous about visiting The Joy School?" to "What have you learned at The Joy School that you might not have learned at another school?"

I am very grateful for Kate Montgomery's film expertise and desire to work with us on this project, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with so many of our bright, articulate, service-oriented student leaders who made this project possible. Truly, it was the highlight of my year.

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