Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Learning to Teach By Watching Movies

I have two weeks of downtime ahead of me before new-teacher week, and the opening workshops for my new school begin. In two weeks I’ll be bracing myself for the onslaught of students, lesson plans, bad attitudes and paperwork. But right now, after the mile-a-minute tendencies of the previous seven weeks, I am flat out bored. I miss the twelve hour days, early mornings, and the work…it gave me purpose; and if I had a choice I’d leap head first into teaching tomorrow.

However, here I am with my two weeks and I decided to be practical and spend my free time watching “educational” films. My Netflix queue is chock-full of movies based around, you guessed it! Teaching! I figure that even if I don’t learn anything, at least I’ll stop missing the classroom.

This weekend showcased two films, Stand and Deliver and Dead Poets Society. Two educators “teaching against the odds,” played by Robin Williams and Edward James Olmos. I’ll start out by saying that I found more practical teaching advice in Stand and Deliver, which was based on a true story.

My main issue with Dead Poet’s Society is how romanticized and heroic the whole idea of teaching is. There’s a point in the film where a “cynical” administrator mentions that it’s misguided to teach sixteen year old boys to learn to think for themselves, and to the extent Robin William’s character attempts to uplift his students, I believe it’s true. Call me a realist, but you have to teach students the rules prior to teaching them how to break them; you have to show the kids how to think, before turning them loose to think for themselves. When you unleash the power of free thought to students without guidance you create a monster that will inevitably destroy itself, or others. I also disagreed with Robin William’s as the teacher/hero/god, it simply left a bad taste in my mouth where I should have felt inspired as he reigned above his disciples…literally. Just remember that you can lead a class without being a “captain.”

Even though any movie that claims to be “based on a true story” should be watched with a pound of salt I really connected to Stand and Deliver. The basis on inner-city Hispanic kids and raising the bar of their education…that’s what the Teaching Fellows is all about, the culture of excellence. Seriously, one of the main points my coursework has drilled into my head is that as a teacher I cannot lower my standards, just because the students come from a culture of less opportunity. And, most importantly, the characterization of the teacher played by Edward James Olmos didn’t rely on the lofty goals of education merely for educations sake, but worked with the students in their trenches. Yes there’s the different of situations, predatory students compared with the kids of L.A…but the point remains: You can’t merely preach at students and expect them to learn, you have to work with them and for them, not just hand them a pile of ideals.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh...inspirational teaching movies. Good idea! Maybe I'll bump them all to the top of my netflix cue...

Hope you're enjoying your time off! :)

Saturday, August 12, 2006 6:10:00 PM  

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