The school year certainly has moved right along. During this testing week, I have realized that school years continue to mimic the ones I had in college--they fly by. I can still remember thinking during my senior year at the University of Maine that college went by in a flash. I also remember that I really did enjoy school--from my first year as a kindergartener right on through my college graduation. After a long gap, a recurring theme known by many of my officiating friends, my return to school to obtain my teaching certificate was done in a flash, too.
Slowing down to enjoy school is not often done, it appears. Students seem to be packed into their schedules, oblivious to what is going on around them. Yesterday, I decided to do something a bit different with some of my classes. Back in the late 1960s, a groundbreaking film--To Sir, With Love--made its way to the big screen. Loaded with great material, from interactions of the students with each other (often reflected by their lots in life), to attitudes of long time teachers, to race relations, to the position of a looked-down upon school, I thought that it gave some pretty good life lessons.
You may recall that in the movie, Sidney Poitier plays an out of work engineer who takes a teaching position with a short time remaining in the term for the equivalent of a high school senior class in East London. The students are completely undisciplined and the previous teacher had died. Some of the faculty thought he was nuts and that he would regret his decision. But, Poitier in his role as Mr. Thackery did something different. He saw the students as near adults who never had been given an ounce of respect and would soon be on their own with a dearth of life skills.
The transformation took some time and some students did not respond until the eleventh hour, but because he cared for them, they began to understand that life may not always be fair, but that respect can always be given. I have to be honest that the main reason I showed a clip from the film was due to a lot of disrespect some students in some classes were showing to one another. I started the film at about the 25 minute mark and gave some background on the film as well as what I hoped they would see.
What happened during the class periods left me in awe. Not only was my most "dynamic" class silent during the movie, but questions were asked about some of the events. More importantly, some students wanted to know the name of the film so they could look it up to watch in its entirety--and it was the students that I least suspected that asked about it. The same thing happened in my other "dynamic" class--in fact, they wanted to see the rest of the film today. (Because I let another teacher use it, I had to defer the request until next week).
It is testing week here in Florida, and learning is not high priority after a bank of tests for many of these students. My school is in a poor, rural district, although many parallels can be found with some poor city school districts. Hopefully, some important life lessons have been given and learned through this fabulous film. I know that I picked up some helpful pointers. I hope it sticks.