The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Your opinion- Student Technicians

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by baileypl, Apr 8, 2018.

  1. baileypl

    baileypl Active Member

    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    United States
    Hello, this is more of a opinion reply cause I want to see where everyone is on this topic... what do you think about high school student technology operators?

    A couple questions I have for you to base opinions on are these,

    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals?

    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it)

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres?

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs.

    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this?

    I know this topic is somewhat controversial but I think that it will be interesting to hear other people’s opinions on the topic. Personally, I think we need to give these kids some leeway, but not enough rope to hang them selves with. :)

    Looking forward to your replies!
     
  2. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    3,205
    Likes Received:
    1,301
    Occupation:
    Consultant
    Location:
    Sarasota, FL
    Students should be given the training and support to understand how these systems work and to be able to run shows with little or no outside support except for artistic guidance (think bowling with bumpers deployed). Upon demonstrating that specific students can be responsible and non-destructive, they should be able to receive paid work supporting shows which they are not academically involved with.

    In general, sound systems should have protective limiters programmed in DSP's to prevent the speaker elements from going supernova during raging feedback and lighting and sound consoles should have files saved off as default configurations for that venue. After that, the only way a student can seriously damage the lighting or sound systems is by spilling a coke on the consoles, or by dropping something from a catwalk.

    If there's rigging involved, they should be trained on basic operations like opening/closing curtains, flying things in and out, but in a counterweight house should be supervised whenever weight is being moved.

    I've encountered only one or two students ever who expressed enough interest to learn how to use the systems but proved they were not responsible. They were ejected from future events, more so because of how they treated others and less because of anything they did involving equipment.

    In my travels where students have been given support and encouragement, and have been treated like responsible young adults, they have proven that they are capable of just about anything. Where students have been treated dumb and like there's some secret knowledge to running tech for a show, they have proven woefully unprepared to put on a good show. Usually there's either no support at all in these situations, or an adult has taken it upon themselves to develop a king-of-the-booth psychosis.

    The only real horror stories I have on this matter are regarding well-intentioned parents. From things like wanting to hang 20' velour curtains off of 3/4" EMT conduit from Home Depot to building 2nd story platforms where the joists split out of the frames and the building inspector shut down the show. I walked off a production of Once Upon A Mattress where the bed was constructed by an inexperienced faculty member. The director didn't heed my warnings and one of the casters split out of the frame almost bouncing the actress 12' off of the top of the bed onto the stage where she would've rolled into the pit. Same show a faculty member tried to to triple stack platform risers to get an 8' deck height without anything to prevent the upper layers from dancing off of the bottom layers. During that very tense dress rehearsal, most of the tech students were just as concerned and livid as I was -- all they needed was someone with enough experience to reinforce for them that that was the appropriate response to the reckless scenery construction they had been seeing for years before I became involved at that school.
     
  3. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,822
    Likes Received:
    1,329
    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @baileypl Written from the perspective of an old blind retired geezer retired from a life in commercial AM broadcast installation and maintenance, two IA locals in different cities and the IBEW, I vote as follows:
    In high school I not only was sure I was great, I WAS great, just ask me and I'll tell you.
    Looking back in my multiple rear view mirrors, there are a great many to whom I'd not only provide miles of rope but plans for gallows and help with its construction. I may even teach them how to properly tie and position the noose knot.
    (Vicious, narly old geezer that I've become.) [ Now let's hear from @derekleffew ]
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
    Les and Jay Ashworth like this.
  4. Amiers

    Amiers Lighting Phoenix 1 Lamp at a Time

    Messages:
    2,929
    Likes Received:
    961
    Location:
    Phoenix, Az
    They are the future if not taught and taught proper, well thing will go awry.

    If interest is show and questions asked I will teach. If they are just there to have fun and earn that extra credit make them push wagons and do housekeeping til they ask or quit.

    The strong will survive and the weak will not.

    As far as your part take the necessary precautions to prevent as much unsafe scenarios as possible and the rest leave up to the gods.
     
    RonHebbard likes this.
  5. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,822
    Likes Received:
    1,329
    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @Amiers Well said. Do you have a little bell or two on your key ring for that extra jingle?
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
    Les and Amiers like this.
  6. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,245
    Likes Received:
    421
    Occupation:
    Consultant
    Location:
    Spokane, WA the great "Inland Northwest"
    Students should not have keys of their own. Many teachers hand their key rings over (trusted only) for specific purposes and then lose track of them in the same hour. I've always liked a big stick or pom-pom attached to make if them obvious. I've been handed rings that have house and car keys on them, not recommended!

    All events should require an adult ( 21+) school employee to be the supervisor. Otherwise having students do paid work a great way to motivate and teach responsibility.

    Dark and private corners of theaters can be highly attractive to teenagers for a wide range of reasons.
     
  7. josh88

    josh88 Remarkably Tired. Premium Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    1,958
    Likes Received:
    551
    Occupation:
    ATD and Sound Head
    Location:
    Ypsilanti, Michigan
    I agree, no keys for students, too much liability for things that could go wrong or happen under their "supervision". I've had students that I trained run various events as a paid staff member without myself present, but with a custodian being the adult in charge unlocking everything and I was only ok with that specific student who I knew could handle something if the (extremely easy to work with) group had a problem arise.

    I tried to train students to run everything we had, lighting, sound, flies, etc as a part of my class, and then most self selected as to whether they'd want to do it in a show situation.

    The only stigma I can think of is that its a boys club, but that is unfortunately also part of the industry. It was hard to attract girls and most that I did get were only interested in painting, but I did have a few come through that were great and down for anything.

    Some kids stress and implode if something goes wrong, but thats why the adults are around, to right the course, get the show back on track and get the kids through it.
     
  8. Aaron Clarke

    Aaron Clarke Active Member

    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Richmond, IN
    As the tech director now for a youth group I'll chime in

    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals?

    Yes, a supervisor/adult should be present anytime minors are in the building. With a school the school policy probably requires that a staff member be present. Now if that's the theatre director/manger or the night custodian is going to depend on the skill and trust level with that student and what they are there for. Students may get frustrated by this but remember, ultimately its the supervisors job and livelihood that's at risk should something happen.

    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it)

    I'm not sure on this one. When I was in HS I was regularly given the set of "tech keys" this has the dedicated key to the booth, windows and electric winches. Catwalk took a master key and the teacher always unlocked for us. The keys had to go back to him at the end of the work day. Can I honestly say I never abused this? No. I also can say that today, I certainty wouldn't want to climb mount Everest to unlock a window at the light booth and rather hand that key to someone if I trust them. If I do that is going to depend on the student and my experience and trust level. I know who that works around me that respects the equipment and that is the only person I would think about handing keys too. Most of that issue it not even an issue where I am now as nothing is locked except the building itself.

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres?

    #1- They are stupid and adults know better. This is so not the case- I find the students I work with far preferable to even veteran adult volunteers. So many bad practices have been developed in the community group I work with and often I see the adults setting such bad examples. The kids want to be there and they want to learn, they are far more apt to ask "am I doing this right" rather then just doing it an hoping for the best. Yes, they are young and not as mature and keeping an eye on them is good but the ones that don't want to be there will weed themselves out.

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs.

    Recent production we put a 9 year old (supervised of course) on sound effects and she hit every cue, every show spot on. Next mainstage show they did with a veteran op had far less cues and critical timing and that person never hit one right. I'll take the 9yo any day.
    Kids are going to more work to be blunt- More questions, hard to get that phone out of their hands and will tend to be a bit spacy. That the nature of kids, I continue to work on how I work with them but I can't say I've ever had any worse experience with students/kids than I've had with adults.

    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this?

    Treat them like a young adult, let them to the work and let them run out the leash. If there is a task to do, let them give it a try and then coach them on the result. Don't stand behind them and micro manage them. No one likes that. Obviously if life safety is involved don't let them loose, but then if that's the case they should be observing first and then walk through the process step by step many times over. Understand they won't be perfect because you're not perfect either. If they make a mistake don't yell at them for making the mistake, use that to teach them how to correct the issue. Above all have fun with them and show them you appreciate and support their involvement. Thank you cards, treat and snacks go a long way to make them feel welcome. If they really do love it get to know the parents as they often won't understand the skills that their kid is learning (Oh you just push a button). Getting to know the parent allows you to help the parent understand this could be a career path and the time they invest picking their kids up at midnight is a good investment in their child.
     
    teqniqal and Ben Stiegler like this.
  9. RonHebbard

    RonHebbard Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Messages:
    2,822
    Likes Received:
    1,329
    Location:
    Burlington, Ontario, Canada
    @Aaron Clarke I can't seem to find your point #5 on your numerically ordered list; please elaborate.
    Toodleoo!
    Ron Hebbard.
     
  10. Aaron Clarke

    Aaron Clarke Active Member

    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Richmond, IN
    The OP skipped #5 as well. Frankly I'm not a fan of the number either- lol
     
    Les, RonHebbard and Van like this.
  11. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    6,026
    Likes Received:
    1,405
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals?

    Supervisory personnel should always be on site when students are operating equipment. Does this mean you need someone standing over their shoulder in the booth? no, At the fly rail? Well, there really should be adults present but if properly trained there is no reason a responsible student shouldn't be operating properly maintained equipment.

    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it)

    Checked in and out on performance nights/during work calls Yes. Given a key and free reign to be 'King of the Auditorium'? No.

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres?

    See second part of answer above. With proper training and respect for the position there should be no issue.

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs.

    I've mostly ever had great experiences with students. Only once did I have to replace a kid because of absolute refusal to follow or incorporate safety rules and practices. It takes patience, a willingness to accept the occasional mistake, and attention to ones own attitude towards things when providing instruction.

    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this?

    See answer above: Give them the best training and as much responsibility as possible. Kids will, almost, always rise to an opportunity to demonstrate responsibilty. They continually amaze me. Patience and the willingness to accept the occasional mistake are the biggest tools you can take into the situation.
     
    Ben Stiegler likes this.
  12. HS PAC

    HS PAC Member

    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    In my experience students tend to be unreliable. If we still had a theatre tech class I think they would treat the job with more professionalism. As a volunteer club, they tend to be in it for the camaraderie and snacks.
     
    TimMc and RonHebbard like this.
  13. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    529
    Likes Received:
    621
    The last time I had a student-staffed show was at a college. Great crew, they had show blacks with the name of the hall (wish I could recall it now) - "XYZ Crew, never seen, never heard, always there."

    High school? Eh, not so much. The relative maturity level is the biggest issue. The post above points out that when these things are no longer laboratory exercises but social clubs things get dicey.
     
    RonHebbard likes this.
  14. Scarrgo

    Scarrgo Active Member

    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    85
    Occupation:
    Technical Director, JAPAC L'Anse Creuse P.S.
    Location:
    Sterling Heights, MI
    I also work with High School age students, my take...

    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals?

    Yes I do, over the shoulder? no, but job specific lights,sound,spot...no, rail, maybe someone around, depends on student


    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it)


    Not really a problem in our space, but as long as I trust them(99% I do)I do ask what they are needed for, and I just remind them to return them to me

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres?

    We have issues with some that say "I only run sound" and does not want to help/do other things, King of the booth, not sure how that happens(its only happened in the last two to three years) and not sure if its my fault or how to break them of that without breaking the student, I dont want to drive them away and I dont want to hand hold them or make it a horrible experience for them or myself...

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs.

    Can be frustrating when you work with someone for weeks and you think they got it, and next day " What do I do?" and have to start all over again...But its great when they just do what needs to be done without you having to tell them, and when they take charge of a project as its was their own...


    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this?

    Be there, not bury them if they make a mistake, and its okay to make a mistake, know that they know if the make a mistake, someone can get hurt, we have a lot of really really cool dangerous tools and toys. Have fun, that no one is above pushing a broom.


    Just some of my thoughts.....

    Sean...
     
    Ben Stiegler and Van like this.
  15. EdSavoie

    EdSavoie Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    500
    Likes Received:
    227
    Occupation:
    College Student
    Location:
    Windsor, ON, Canada
    I'm biased, however, my take on the subject is as follows:

    Teachers and other staff, as great and dedicated as they can be, are not employed to run the theater. While there should be someone supervising, the simple fact is that it's just not always realistic.

    With that in mind, something we've historically had trouble with is "protecting" the crew from being labeled as a club. Calling it a 'club' essentially invites people to goof off, which generally isn't advisable around theatrical equipment. Being on a volunteer crew is a privilege, not a right. That's something that can take time to ingrain, and many students will either leave or be removed because they simply aren't responsible. What you end up with is that the new batch of students half way through their first year can generally be trusted to not kill themselves with the help of the senior, and more mature students.

    To loop back a bit, the snacks and camaraderie mentality has to start and stop with the first year students. If some aren't dedicated and only come occasionally to meetings, that's fine so long as they aren't disruptive. They simply won't be getting calls for shows or anything involving a client coming from outside the school.

    Students having keys is an issue all on it's own. Signed in / out sets of keys is the way to go for student technicians, with the slight caveat that the student 'head' of crew should probably have a more permanent set of keys. There comes a point when the most dedicated and mature students are trusted enough to be put on paid jobs as contracted employees of the school board, it makes sense to give them one set.

    Essentially, once a student has demonstrated and is trusted enough to be allowed to contract for the school board, I no longer see a problem with that person having the key(s).


    At least from my personal experience, the somewhat ironic thing is that more problems have been caused by too many classes having keys to the auditorium, than by crew students using the keys, possibly due to aforementioned processes of vetting and trust. We've had gym teachers use the stage on a Friday for yoga, and come back on Monday with every single fixture turned on all weekend long. There was also the time a well meaning band student left the foots on overnight, or the time dance students came in and trashed the backstage, and the curtains, and the change rooms...

    I hope I don't come off sounding too rude, but the comment on student technicians being "unreliable" irked me somewhat. That's down to student selection, training and mentality. I know I've pulled 90+ hour weeks essentially living at the theatre for various shows and festivals alongside other students who wanted nothing more than the best they could do for the show and client.
     
    Ben Stiegler and RonHebbard like this.
  16. Aaron Clarke

    Aaron Clarke Active Member

    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Richmond, IN
    Can't agree more. From my days in HR: For myself and the supervisors I coached the first rule was always if your team/staff are not performing to expectation you must first and foremost look with-in yourself. It is just not common in nature to have an entire team or group of people all be poor performers in any regard. Could there be bad apples, sure, but you need to coach to good ones and bad ones will almost always self eliminate or can be removed from the group.
     
    RonHebbard likes this.
  17. mikefellh

    mikefellh Active Member

    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals?

    There should be a probationary period like anything in life, but if they have proven themselves (and you've trained them properly to handle what they need to handle) no unless/until there's an issue that comes up.

    In our highschool stagecrew there was the different levels, there were the first year members (didn't matter what grade, if they joined in grade 12 and it was their first year on the stagecrew they were still first years), and those who were on for several years who trained the first years until competency was proven.

    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it)

    Again once a probationary period has passed...but you risk loss/abuse with anyone. Me, if I'm doing work in the auditorium I may turn on the projector and crank up the sound for a Hollywood DVD movie, or rock videos to see on "the big screen"...yesterday I had a video of a Jean Michel Jarre concert I was at last year playing while I was getting ready for an event (and using it to psyche me up).

    But in my position, which is 100% voluntary, I was given full keys only a month after I joined the organization as a member and volunteering for the position a couple of weeks without any security check or anything which surprised me...in most cases this organization doesn't give keys to the building until someone has been a member of the club for a few years so their trust has been earned...but I guess in my case (in my mid-30's) since I was willing to do the work for free and had the background they trusted me early on.

    Going back to my high school days, the keys weren't given to any individual...there was a special locker outside the auditorium (and viewable by the school office) that held the keys to the auditorium and only senior stagecrew members were given the combination to that locker. Of course if a junior crew member was signed up to run an event (and had proven themselves) and no senior member was going to be at that event they were given the combination.

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres?

    Sure there's the stigma of techies in highschools as geeks...it's seen in TV shows, the kid with all the keys taking projectors to classrooms. Even by the actors in the school play even though we make them look good at the cast/crew party crew are treated like less than dirt after the final performance!

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs.

    In my organization which is 100% voluntary (except for the cleaning service we use), we get resumes from highschool students who want experience but they expect to be paid as well...I've been doing it 15 years unpaid, and they want me to pay THEM???? They don't want to work just for the experience (even if everyone else are volunteers), so we have yet to bother with them.

    No #5?

    Hmmmm.....

    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this?

    Sure I love to teach them new skills, but they have to understand that the position comes with responsibilities...if they goof off or don't concentrate the show messes up/doesn't go on. But when there's a technical issue/challenge and they solve it (especially without the audience knowing) they should be proud of their work.

    I remind them too about a famous Alfred Hitchcock quote when someone went wrong on a movie set..."It's only a movie."

    Things do happen and go wrong, and I say to learn and do better next time. I always try to improve the operation of our auditorium.
     
  18. NickVon

    NickVon Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    649
    Likes Received:
    155
    Location:
    07003
    I come from 2 largely different backgrounds in my work with students/educational settings. I work at a college with no fine arts program but a theater venue that we rent out and use for school activities. We have Student Employee's that are employed through the Federal Work Study program. I also work with a number of local high schools as a Designer and Technical Supervisor, or assist HS staff with there shows.

    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals?

    Once Trained on my theaters systems my college work study students are expected to use the systems effectively with out my over site.

    HS students should have at least of Direct line of supervision in the building, if not maybe actually in the theater themselves. I've found that many of the HS systems don't have the Processor/Limiter hardware or access limitations in place they should, and these are still HS students that may sometimes play if they know they are completely on their own.


    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it)

    My College Student workers have keys and alarm codes for our building. keys to Front Door, back doors, Booth, and Mic/equipment storage room. They do not have keys to my office.

    I do not think that HS students should have keys to any part of the school building. This is partial do to the fact that the booth key might also be keyed to places that a student should have no business being in (machine room, offices, etc.) That said I have worked with high schools whose students, have been trusted with a key to the booth to frequently run and assist with events in the theater during the school day. If a student has shown their working knowledge of the equipment aand responsibility/protecting the booth space i think that level of limited responsibility can do wonders for a student to have ownership of what they do.

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres?

    That they are not responsible. I've found that I would trust many of the high school students to sub in for a show or an event at my theater over my own work study students because HS techs' want to, and love, to have the responsibility and take those things more seriously then my workstudy students.

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs.
    Most of my experiences with HS techs have been good to great, and even greater when they are supported with small degrees of trust that increase over time. The old adage, Trust but Verify, is particularly helpful for young students that crave responsibility and will amazing you down the line. When I need a board Op for an outside show, different venue, different group I frequetly will go to HS tech's/ or recent grads I've worked with that have proved their worth and passion.

    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this?
    Give them some little bits of responsibility, Verify they are doing it, and keep that cycle over and over again. It can be as simple as Remove all these batteries from the mics, Put all New ones in. Do them in 2 large batches, then turn them all on, then come and fine me. Great Job. Do this same thing tomorrow at 5pm. (And Then i'll check all the packs are on with full meters at 6pm each day) and then just build from there. Tweak there
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
    RonHebbard likes this.
  19. Conner Jones

    Conner Jones Member

    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    St.Louis
    When I was in high school we had master keys to the building, we were unsupervised, and we were paid to do non-drama club AV events. paid minimum wage, i often worked 30-40 hours in a week. It was by far the most efficient and flexible place I have worked to date. Equipment did not walk, not even gaff roles. Further, if someone we didn't know was in our space, you can bet we were on em like a hawk. we were very protective of our theatre.

    All that said, to actually become a technician at my high school was a year long vetting process by the TD. The TD was staff at the school and had been in the industry for 30 years. We had 3 students like me who got to enjoy all those freedoms and benefits, and it was far more educational to me than my 3.5 years in college were because if I wanted to learn something about the gear I had the time, the access, and the experience of my TD to help me figure it out. I learned something new every day.

    At the end of the day what it comes down to is this:
    1. people who are genuinely interested in the job and want to do good at it will have no reason to steal, misplace, or make a mess of the gear.
    2. life is not fair and neither is tech. only a select few should have the keys. not everyone gets to touch the gear. that way if something does go south, the list of suspects is short.
    3. if you think they deserve it, treat your crew with respect and treat them like your equals. You will be amazed how well some young kids can rise to a challenge and be responsible. However, this only works if you talk to them on equal footing. the secound you try to make a power move, high schoolers will get rebellious.
     
    Dionysus, NickVon, baileypl and 2 others like this.
  20. paulears

    paulears Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    uk
    As an ex-UK college lecturer (16-21 age group) I doubt too much has changed translating to the US
    1. Do they need supervised even if the have been trained on the system by professionals? Absolutely, because they are still learning, and inexperienced, and of course, while they are in education, the staff are still legally responsible for what they do, even with the best intention.

    2. Should they have a key to unlock the system (not the booth or aud doors, just to unlock it to operate it) Nope - as above, plus the fact that as students, they are allowed to be forgetful and irresponsible.

    3. What stigmas surround students that operate tech in high school theatres? Stigmas? Apart from those that got the job because they n' act, sing, dance or play an instrument, meaning the must be technical - the real stigma is 'student', meaning sadly, often with opinions on their ability outstripping their actual real level.

    4. What good/bad experiences have you had with high school techs. Over confidence. Inability to react to events yet convinced they know best.

    6. What is the best way we can support them in their passion for this? encouragement and support, and making sure they remember it is education NOT work.

    Now I'm back doing it again, I still employ plenty of younger people. Maybe in the summer while at uni, or waiting to go to it. Some are really keen and understand they're at the bottom of the food chain. Others know it all. Think what they're told is old and outdated and eventually get fired because they are not team players and real pains!
     
    NickVon and RonHebbard like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice