Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dorky Daddy

Today I'm being filmed for a television news spot to run on our district's local network. Filming on a Wednesday is something I'm quite used to, having just finished up my second weekly math show airing on the same network, but today, although on the same side of the camera, I have to talk about, not math, but something I much more reluctant to discuss: myself! The segment is to take a look at my motivation for doing the two television shows (a Geometry and an Algebra II show) and teaching math in general. I'm supposed to offer viewers (plural, maybe?) an exclusive insight into the answers to those questions. I guess "because I was asked," and "I needed a job" would not be good for TV ratings, so I guess I'll have to reach deeper into the enigmatic depths of my introspective self to produce more riveting answers.

So for the first question, "why do you do the TV shows?" Good question! Although I get a small stipend (enough to pay for my gas to and from the basement studio each Wednesday), the hourly rate over the course of a full year and 33 episodes works out to enough to pay for my son's daily allowance. . . . when he has been bad. Using my own paper and ink to produce the beautifully detailed, artistically styled, perspicuous yet rigorous handouts (available online), spending my own money on wardrobe, costumes, and the various props I use on the show, I certainly don't do it for the money. In fact, I had originally agreed to do the show prior to the knowledge that their would be any monetary remuneration at all.

I believe I got the call on my cell phone two summers ago while driving down the road. It was the producer. She asked, "Would you like to . . . ." "YES!!!!" I cut her off, as I cut off a jerk motorist who was trying to cut me off. "Great!" she said, not knowing the details of the current traffic situation. That's it. I was in, and now I was to give it my all. I guess the novelty of using television as yet another medium for transmitting mathematical knowledge was exciting. The prospect of learning something new about TV production was alluring. "Who will be writing the shows? Who will be in charge of props? Who will be doing my makeup? Do I HAVE to wear makeup?" I heard a laugh on the other end of the phone. Like a skipping record on the first word of the chorus of Debbie Boone's classic hit, the answer on the other end was "You . . . . You . . . .You . . . . ." I also learned that I wouldn't have my own trailer.

Instead of letting the weight of the full effect of the commitment to which I had just pledged be an albatross around my neck, I revived that bird and set it free, embracing the autonomy and creative freedom I would have. I love new challenges, and lots of pain. Incorporating the talents of my artistic brother to create the logos and my own lack of dance skills to good use, we put together an opening to the show. The camera not only added 5 pounds, but with amazing editing, made my "robot" and "disco" dancing look respectable (for a DEVO concert.)

And so it has been every Saturday morning now for two years (summers excluded) that I awake before my family arises, spending 3 to 4 hours compressing a whole week's worth of classroom curriculum into a concise, humorous, mathematically invigorating 30 minute show, sometimes even leaving enough room for a public service announcement (such as "don't do drugs," "stay in school,"don't play with toasters in trees," and "do your homework.") Usually by the time I was finishing up, I would hear the pitter-patter of little feet downstairs soon followed by the sweet, precious voices of my newly-awaken children, "Dad, are you working on your 'Dork' shows again?" Because I wore a dorky blue bow tie, dorky glasses, and a dorky sport coat on this year's show, my children now think I resemble a whale phallus.

With the show written and online handouts made, Wednesday was the designated day to film. This meant I had to remember to take my dorky, clean (thanks to the wife!) costume with me each Wednesday morning. You'd think forget it just once would be a good deterrent to ever do it again, but you'd be incorrect. After picking up my son after school, I'd head to the filming studio, which is housed in the lonely, cold, dark, lonely basement of our school district's central offices. Having no trailer, dressing room, or convenient phone booth, I'd change into my dorky persona in the men's room, carefully wash my hands which would be on camera as I worked out solutions, and do a virtual powdering of my nose. Once the lights were in place and the shadows on the green screen were eliminated, we began taping, typically doing the show straight through in a single take, except when there were malfunctions with the equipment, wardrobe, math, or the show's host, which was fortuitous since there was no one around with a clapperboard to say "Awesome math show with the dork, take two!"

I had to admit that now that we are done filming for this year, I will not miss the routine of writing and filming. It has been nice to actually get to sleep in on Saturdays until 6:30am, not to mention not having my kids call me "Dorky Daddy" anymore. I'll take the time between now and the start of next school year to come up with some creative slants on next year's prospective show: "Professor Precalculus," "Calculus--the prequel," or "Korpi the (non-dorky) Math Guy."

As for the other question, "Why did I get into teaching?" Well, I needed the money.


Brenda said...

"I love new challenges, and lots of pain."

Only you!

-Enjoy your late mornings, I think the sun is (about to come) up by 6:30 am

Anonymous said...

you should wear that bow tie to school. I think we'd all learn math better, if we weren't distracted.