Work

My students gave me second-hand smoke


In 2008 Ana – my partner – and I decided to do away with having a TV in our apartment. We had just moved in together, and we were starting a new life in Barcelona. There is very little advertising on the streets in that city, if compared to NY or Mexico City. I thought this would be a great advert-cleansing experience. Watching one or two favorite shows and movies was done via streaming services, so I felt this scenario would keep me away from so much materialism as when I lived in NY or Mexico City.

Little did I know I would be in the middle of so much more advertising than expected, simply by being around kids. 

I teach Communications Media to Middle and High School students. I also teach Digital Cinema Production to High School students. Every now-and-again I teach Technology classes to Elementary School students as well. Busy! Any ways, since I had to prep for such different age ranges and content, I scoured the Internet for all types of resources for my students. In order for the content to be relevant to them, therefore engaging, I had to see what they were up to in their own digital lives and find things that related to them.

Every morning kids would stream into the computer lab situated right next to my office. The was a glass door through which I could observe what they were doing without interrupting or somehow limiting what they were up to. This was my morning class. I would stay up-to-date on what they were up in their digital lives, what music they liked, what commercials they were watching, what videos they sought out on YouTube and what socialmedia outlets they used the most. After watching for a while I would often walk into the lab and simply ask them questions as to what they were doing, why they liked using a certain site over another, what they liked most about being on Facebook, and other questions along those lines. I never asked them to turn away from anything they were doing. After all, their parents had dropped them off early at school and the only place they had to hang out indoors was the computer lab. Of course, if there was inappropriate material on the screen I would have a more in-depth conversation with them and explain to them why it was a good idea to stay away from such material. These early morning sessions where my best teacher-school, and they helped me refine my units. 

These morning sessions are also what kept me up-to-date on brands, makes, models, colors, prices, and all sorts of other marketing details of what is being sold to kids every day. From being able to recognize in an instant a brand’s logo and punch it into an iPhone game, to knowing the melody of most TV commercials, I was not able to stay clean. Due to my proximity to kids and my interest in what they were doing I became more versed in logo-land than I had been before. Like second-hand smoke, I feel I was more affected by what kids where exposed to in all the marketing surrounding them everyday than I was when I did not work directly with students and was a mere tech director at a school.

This is by no means a complaint, but an observation of the effects of being in a classroom full of children who are first-hand smokers of the advertising world’s campaigns via TV, radio, print, gaming or the Internet that are tailored specifically for their age-range.

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