SRL Connected Educator of the Month | November 2018

SRL Connected Educator Michael Falevits of SRL’s Free Spirit Media in Chicago believes his role as an educator is to strengthen the connection between journalism and the impact it can make on greater good of humanity. His ability to guide his students through major successful productions that focus on the untold stories of different communities, demonstrates an extraordinary level of integrity, excellence and passion that reflects public media’s core mission.

What is your teaching philosophy when it comes to storytelling?   

I like to look at the mediums of film, television, and journalism as vivid explorations of the human condition. I feel it can be the purest form of empathy. Therefore, I like to explore how I could take away a rote, academic, or overly structured understanding of reflecting humanity through the camera in hopes of realizing the limitless potential of authentic communication. I do teach typical story structure; “beginning, middle and end,” “where’s the conflict,” etc., but I do it in ways that will hopefully empower the students to make new discoveries and trust their inner knowing. I teach them what the “box” is and if they feel inclined to step out of it, I encourage them to. I guess the best way I can describe my teaching approach to storytelling is, I don’t try to deconstruct it. And I don’t call it storytelling. Reveal the reality and truth in what’s happening and allow yourself to discover things that will most likely be more brilliant than you could have planned for. I guess I just need to create with complete freedom and I hope to inspire the students to do the same.

How can student journalism help promote a greater understanding of the world?

Student journalism has the benefit of coming from a pure place. The students are not jaded and don’t have the potential influences that a major for-profit media company may have. That kind of purity has the potential to drive straight to the heart of what they are filming and the inspiration to authentically reflect it. This may seem controversial, but in certain ways I feel that children are naturally unbiased.

What do you hope to accomplish with STEM SRL?  

I hope that I can give the young people a deep sense of empowerment and ownership that they have the ability to create brilliant work. I want them to know that no matter which industry we delve into through STEM SRL, they have the capability, resources and resourcefulness to create a truly compelling piece that could inspire the world. That they too are “powerful beyond measure” (Marianne Williamson).

How can we get youth more interested in the news?

I believe that young people are intrinsically inspired to advocate for human rights. If educators can demonstrate the connection between journalism and how it could impact the greater good of humanity then they would be more inclined and inspired to watch it.

What would life look like without public media?

Similar to what I said about a young person’s ability to create from a pure place, I believe that public media reflects that same ability. When asked to explain how somebody might be able to stop atrocities from happening in the world, producer of Schindler’s List, Gerald R. Molen simply said to “shine a light on it.” Without an unbiased platform from which we are able to “shine a light” on all aspects of humanity, not just the atrocities, the world’s hunger for truth and empathy would increase. I believe that public media has the potential to reflect truth and generate much needed empathy that the world has always been grateful for.