It is the night before my 13th year of teaching. I find myself flipping through random channels as I thumb through a local newspaper that features two articles about education and teaching. As fate would have it, I find that I am just in time to start at the beginning of Dead Poets Society.
John Keating. . . .
The untimely passing of Robin Williams a short time ago generated an appreciation for his many talents and movies. For educators especially, his role as John Keating served as the inspiration to join the ranks of education. As a senior in high school, I compiled a video compilation of movie clips that represented who I was and the aspirations I held for my life. Clips from Dead Poets Society were present in large quantities as I began my journey in education.
First Day of School . . . .
I stifle a laugh as the opening scene unfolds. The film takes us from classroom to classroom as teachers begin their classes. There is the Latin instructor that firmly believes in the repetition strategy of instruction as the boys repeat a series of words over and over. We see the instructor that outlines all his rules and policies and warns the boys not to challenge him on these points. A few more introductions and coma-inducing procedure lectures leave the students waiting for more of the same as they wait for Keating to arrive. They are startled by a cheery whistle and sit in confusion as he leaves the room after gesturing for them to follow. It is here that we experience one of the most iconic moments of the film.
Carpé Diem . . . .
Gathered in a hall, the boys are surrounded by trophies, awards, medals and photographs of the glories achieved by the alumni. Keating encourages the boys to look into the faces of those that came before them as he whispers, “Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary!“
Reality. . . .
Back to the local paper I was reading while channel surfing. One story focused on the disservice done by Hollywood by portraying teachers as saintly martyrs instead of active professionals (Mentors Not Martyrs). The article features several iconic teachers, and I realize, they all battled to teach the way that they believed in. Why? Why do we have to battle so much? I want to be a Keating-type of teacher for my students, but does this have to come with the price of potentially being removed from teaching? Is insubordination the worst thing I could do?
Disruption. Creativity. Innovation.
They certainly come with a price. I personally, have decided it is one that I will gladly pay. I’m sure there will be some technicality or minor error that will snowball into substantial reason to let me go. So far I have been reprimanded for requesting student emails (for crosschecking our database), saying the word “crap” (Junior High??), and being “too overwhelming” for some people with my enthusiasm/passion for teaching. At any rate- fear can cripple creativity and passion to the point of mediocrity. It is when egos supersede camaraderie, protocol over personalization and control trumps creativity that kids are truly failed.
Mr. Keating was fired.
It’s disruption, creativity, and innovation that moves us forward. Look at all the changes in the world since your district’s textbooks were adopted. We live in a different society than the one we were educated in. We owe it to our students to move forward and try new things.
There is so much strength in knowing others are taking risks and challenging the status quo. I’m honored to be (virtually) holding hands with you on this risky, but imperative, journey to better educate our kids!
Thanks for the honest and thought-provoking post.