Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two Thumbs Up!

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.

My AP Lang cherubs are finishing up Among Schoolchildren, Tracy Kidder's 1989 non-fiction look at public education in America. Specifically, public education in a challenging school district.

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.

9 comments:

Krystal said...

that is a GREAT movie to show...for sure. I want to see it now

kungfudonut said...

very interesting blog you have there

Amy said...

I sometimes wonder what that book might look like if Kidder wrote it now. Do you still assign Old Friends? (Still my absolute favorite Kidder book.)

Joann Mannix said...

And different is good, it gets them thinking in a whole, new way. LOVE that movie.

Kristy said...

As long as you are thoughtful about it, it is relevant, and challenges thinking, then a video can be a good thing!

Susie said...

Sometimes you have to mix it up:-)

Dishesdone said...

Great movie to show, and a great way to present it, making them think and not just kick back! The world could use more teachers like you!

bluecottonmemory said...

Movies in the classroom irritate me - unless they're like yours - designed to promote discussion and opinions. Sadly, my sons have too many teachers who put in too many movies just to get a break! Makes me itch to homeschool again.

Allyson said...

I have to say this was always one of my favorite kinds of assignments. I never wrote papers like I did when I was asked to draw a parallel between a book and a movie. I like parallels. I find them in day to day life as often as possible. A teacher once explained it to me as every time you draw a parallel, your brain is making a new connection and that just sounded fantastic to me. I have to say, though, that I have never seen "Stand and Deliver," despite having been in a film analysis class in high school. SOOO...adding it to my Netflix list right now! Maybe it's on Instant Viewing...

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