Yes, I've complained, in this space, about teachers who would rather show a movie than assign a difficult writing assignment. Or the colleague who screened the World Cup last spring instead of administering a final exam.
Well, I'm guilty too, I guess. Except this assignment comes with a different kind of a twist.
Kidder spent a year inside 5th-grade teacher Christine Zajac's classroom at the Kelly School in Holyoke, MA. Kelly, located in the Flats, featured a student body facing life's hard edges: poverty, language barriers, cultural differences, and no support at home.
The author's main point? You can make it ~ if you try.
Every year about this time, I slip a cool 1980s flick into the VCR (oh, I'm sure it's out on DVD, but I like that retro-feeling). I screen "Stand and Deliver," the dynamic salute to math teacher Jaime Escalante, and his successful crusade to teach some of LA's worst cases how to master calculus.
Like most of my assignments, the kiddos don't get away with just watching the movie. They have to pay attention, take notes and, ultimately, draw a written parallel between Among Schoolchildren and "Stand and Deliver."
Some struggle with this assignment. Some bomb it, thinking a video at the end of the quarter means a time to kick back, relax and put their brains in neutral. But most, in my middle-class world, embrace the challege. It's not an easy assignment, you see ~ just different.