My twitter-colleague Matthew Lynch is a professor, editor of The Edvocate and a blogger for the Huffington Post, Education Week, and Diverse.
He has an exceptionally thought-provoking two-part article about some movies that expressly speak to the situation teachers in America find themselves in.
I have routinely used video clips from movies (and other sources) in the workshops I do with teachers. Dr. Lynch’s post prodded me to get about the work of putting together my ten favorite movie clips any teacher can relate to. Each of them gives an example (or maybe a non-example!) of how to structure the learning environment to reach all kids. In somewhat random order, here they are!
Patch Adams, “The Walkthrough” – If someone, even an administrator, walked past your classroom door at just the right (or wrong?) moment, what would they think about what is going on? Administrative walkthroughs are quite the rage in some evaluation systems, which I suppose is all well and good. But whoever is doing the observing needs to know exactly what they are looking for and looking at without jumping to any unwarranted conclusions based on personal preferences or preconceived notions about what constitutes effectiveness.
Miracle, “I wanna see that kid in the net who wouldn’t take the test.” – You know the kid. He’s good. He knows he’s good. You know he’s good. But he doesn’t always do well. Sometimes, he doesn’t do anything. He’s bored. He’s disengaged. He might even be smarter than you. You still have to find a way to reach him. And you don’t have to crush his spirit to do it.
The Blind Side, “You should get to know your players, Bert.” – Take advantage of their strengths. That means you have to take the time to get to know them and find out their strengths. A very real-life example of “if they don’t learn the way I teach, I need to learn to teach the way they learn.”
Remember the Titans, “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain” – What teacher wouldn’t love to have a “can-do” team attitude in their classroom? However, high functioning teams do not just happen. The process can be difficult, and it requires a level of honesty and trust in interactions that just does not seem to come naturally in traditional expectations for classroom management.
We Are Marshall, “Now, I am going to bet that you didn’t propose over the phone….“
Engaging students (and their families!) takes much more than mass communication. General newsletters, form letters, and announcements are fine, but they do nothing to cultivate a relationship. Before you need some very special favor, cultivate the relationship that makes it likely for someone to want to do something nice for you.
Mr. Holland’s Opus, “Lou finds the beat” – If you know a teacher who is still confused about what Tier III instruction in a Multi-Tiered System of Support (or “Response to Intervention (RtI)” model is supposed to look like, show them this clip. Individual, specialized assistance, with the task broken down into successive approximations, within the student’s Zone of Proximal Development, with the end goal of having the student perform the task proficiently alongside their peers. Simple as banging on a drum.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Anyone?” – Informal formative assessment and checking for understanding are all the rage these days. And well they should be. They are a great way for a teacher to make sure their instruction is doing what it is supposed to do. Here’s the key, though… if you aren’t using the data from your formative assessment to actually change the way you teach, it’s absolutely pointless to perform the assessment and collect the data.
We Bought a Zoo, “Twenty seconds of insane courage” – What if we gave kids a safe place to try? What if we gave kids a place where they could see what happens when they come up with twenty seconds of insane courage, with no fear of rejection or ridicule if they get it a little bit wrong? For far too many of our students, school has taught them that the shame of failure is to be feared far more than the joy of accomplishment is to be pursued.
A Christmas Story, “I want you to write a theme!” – Why haven’t there been more statues commemorating students who wrote magnificent themes? Is it possibly because they never made it further than the teacher’s inbox, then the gradebook, then the wastebasket? What can you do to get the great work your students do in front of more people? [Consider something like Project TWIMA (The World Is My Audience)!]
Kindergarten Cop, Fire Drill – Every new teacher dreads their first fire drill. Every veteran teacher can’t help themselves but look to see how the newbie does. But seriously, when do you see people walking in neat, straight rows like that when there’s a REAL fire?
Pay It Forward, Your assignment for the school year – change the world. – When did a year-long assignment challenging students to come up with an idea that would change the world for the better become such a pie-in-the-sky fantasy world idea? If we spend all of our time in the curriculum laboratory coming up with not-real assignments about not-real topics to help kids achieve not-real standards demonstrated on not-real assessments, why should we surprised that kids ask why they should bother spending their time on it? Do they want to change things? Great! Channel that drive, don’t squelch it and then wonder why the kids seem so apathetic these days. What type of work would be considered “weird”, “crazy”, or “hard” in your classroom? If it’s worth doing, if it could change the world, why not think of it as “possible” and see what happens?