Category Archives: Movies

Easy Public Relations with Students and Parents

One thing I’ve realized during my career as an educator is that positive public relations are always good for my classroom. Really, isn’t that what Open House is? It’s a PR moment for the school–especially high schools–where parents frequently state they are intimidated to enter, and a chance for teachers to reveal their plans, the standards, and themselves in a short presentation.

However, I’ve also learned that PR comes in many packages.

One way I use positive word of mouth is to show films related to the content in my classroom. Occasionally, during an evening of the work week or on a weekend afternoon, I will show a film for my students to watch while I work on grading assignments or planning projects and the like. To get the students there, I offer extra credit, but I make sure that the points are a negligible amount having no real effect on students’ grades, or I will give students a ticket which, when redeemed, allows a student to retake a test or rewrite a paper (which I do anyway, but it’s about perception).

Plus, showing films is an excellent way to use a popular medium to provide enrichment opportunities while simultaneously showing students and parents that I sacrifice my personal time for students. We all do this. We grade student work on our own time, plan lessons and units, prepare assessments, and more on our own time, but this makes the time sacrifice a visible teaching moment for the students and parents.

Moreover, it’s a fun way to show students how the literature I teach connects to what they learn in class. For example, here are a few of my favorites:

Many other films work well with the literature I teach, especially when I teach American Literature, and the students enjoy coming to school for a fun activity. Since I’ve started having these movie nights and afternoons, I’ve have seen a difference in my students’ feelings about coming to my classroom and my parents’ attitudes about how teachers care about their kids. The comments I receive from the parents are heart-warming and they sometimes come to the movie nights too and bring snacks.

I don’t attribute all of my successes to these movie nights, but they are part of a larger series of positive PR moments that increase engagement in my classroom and word of mouth about my classes.

Advertisements

“Waiting for Superman” Got It Wrong

According to Rick Ayers in a blog post on The Answer Sheet (a fantastic daily must-read), the filmmakers got it wrong in Waiting for Superman.

Here is his list, and you can check out his full explanations at the source.

  1. Waiting for Superman says that lack of money is not the problem in education.
  2. Waiting for Superman implies that standardized testing is a reasonable way to assess student progress.
  3. Waiting for Superman ignores overall problems of poverty.
  4. Waiting for Superman says teachers’ unions are the problem.
  5. Waiting for Superman says teacher education is useless.
  6. Waiting for Superman decries tenure as a drag on teacher improvement.
  7. Waiting for Superman says charter schools allow choice and better educational innovation.
  8. Waiting for Superman glorifies lotteries for admission to highly selective and subsidized charter schools as evidence of the need for more of them.
  9. Waiting for Superman says competition is the best way to improve learning.
  10. Waiting for Superman says good teachers are key to successful education. We agree. But Waiting for Superman only contributes to the teacher-bashing culture which discourages talented college graduates from considering teaching and drives people out of the profession.
  11. Waiting for Superman says “we’re not producing large numbers of scientists and doctors in this country anymore. . . This means we are not only less educated, but also less economically competitive.”
  12. Waiting for Superman promotes a nutty theory of learning which claims that teaching is a matter of pouring information into children’s heads.
  13. Waiting for Superman promotes the idea that we are in a dire war for US dominance in the world.
  14. Waiting for Superman says federal “Race to the Top” education funds are being focused to support students who are not being served in other ways.
  15. Waiting for Superman suggests that teacher improvement is a matter of increased control and discipline over teachers.
  16. Waiting for Superman proposes a reform “solution” that exploits the feminization of the field of teaching; it proposes that teachers just need a few good men with hedge funds (plus D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee with a broom) to come to the rescue.

Please read the full article. It details the reasons educators become frustrated with the slanted debate and preconceived agendas of the people in power. Education is being taken over by businessmen and profiteers, and the media war is only beginning.

Upcoming in January

I just finished planning for January, and I’m going to be teaching the following this month.

American Literature: First, we’ll review the Edgar Allan Poe writings (“The Raven” and “Masque of the Red Death” and “The Tell Tale Heart”) as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment.” I actually used an excerpt of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which is in our textbook, as an introduction to the Poe unit. King’s piece is great for explaining how people’s curiosity is virtually uncontrollable and how the unknown is the scariest of all scares. This was a fun unit, and the kids loved it. It was the most energetic and intrigued they had been all year.

In January we will be reading Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage and looking at Impressionism, Naturalism, and Realism. Then, we’ll follow that up with Nathaniel Hawnthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.”

Mythology: We almost finished our examination of Greek mythology but need to finish The Fall of Troy and the tales of Odysseus. That should take us the first week of the month.

Then, we’re going to read Beowulf, compare and contrast Norse Creation with the Greek version and then read some Norse tales. This will finish the semester. We completed our major project this semester, so we have a fun finish to the class. I will probably show a couple films after school and look at how the myths are changed for films (maybe Troy, the early 80s Clash of the Titans, The Odyssey, or the new animated Beowulf).  Sometimes I show the kids the documentary about the mythology of Star Wars if time permits. It’s one that the students like (especially when the film director Kevin Smith says “of course” Annakin is the perfect villain to ruin the universe since Annakin is “an emo kid”).

Sophomore Honors: We finished up Ender’s Game before the Winter Break, which the students really enjoyed. Most of the class went out and purchased or shared the sequel during the vacation time. I got a number of e-mails regarding the Ender and Bean books. It’s nice to see the kids inspired to read more.

This month we’re looking at classic fairy tales and then reading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. We’ll compare and contrast the film with the novel, and we’ll look at how Goldman satirizes fairy tales and contemporary society. We may even compose an ABC story which I’ve blogged about in the past.

That’s all for now. TTFN! 🙂

Avatar and the Classroom

I recently went to see James Cameron’s Avatar (in 3-D no less) and was visually awed. In my lifetime few movies made me feel like I had seen a change in cinema, but there have been a few: Star Wars, Aliens, Jurassic Park, and Lord of the Rings.

After watching Cameron’s groundbreaking movie, I reflected on themes that could be turned into lessons by using clips of Avatar. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  • the preservation of the planet,
  • the connectivity of all life on Earth,
  • imperialism,
  • the western expansion of the Americans into Native American territories,
  • the bully tactics of larger nations against smaller nations in acquiring desired resources,
  • word choices (in particular, the ore sought is called “unobtainium”),
  • the idea of the white savior aiding the people of color,
  • a dependence on technology versus a life living off of natural resources,
  • military and diplomatic tactics/solutions, and
  • how this film is actually a love story.

I’m sure there are more themes in the film, but these are my initial thoughts. Any ideas from the film that you think could be added to the list? Any ideas you think don’t work? Let me know.

WALL-E and the Classroom

My nephews are here, and we’re having movie night with WALL-E and popcorn.

Ever since I first saw this movie I thought that the first section of the film would be excellent for an environmental studies unit while the last section in space would be great for Self-Reliance and the theme of independence.

Of course, the space section could also be part of a technology unit or a health unit as well.

I’m guessing Ray Bradbury would have a commentary for us, especially if you’ve read his short story “The Pedestrian” or Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations.”

There’s just so much in this movie!