Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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Book Recommendation - The Film Club
Thursday, July 30, 2009

I love to read anything, but I've really gotten into books about teaching since I started ConEd. In fact, I just put in a rather hefty order with Amazon and the various (used) books are trickling in from bookstores all over the country. Two have arrived so far-- Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol, which I chose for an upcoming assignment, and The World is a Class: How and Why to Teach English around the World by Caleb Powell which Amazon recommended to me after I chose a book about teaching ESL which has yet to arrive on my doorstep. That Amazon recommending feature really works, since I bought about 4 books as a result of its suggestions. I'm not spending as much because I buy used, so I don't need to worry about feeling too guilty. It's professional development, after all!

Anyway, it's funny these books should arrive today, because I just started re-reading one of my favourite gems of teaching wisdom, The Film Club by David Gilmour.

This isn't a teacher's guide, or even a traditional memoir about a teacher's life. This book is about a man who allows his son Jesse, who is utterly disengaged from academics, to drop out of high school. Gilmour gives two conditions for this deal: His son is not to do drugs, and they must watch 3 films a week together. The Film Club chronicles a father's journey to educate his only son in a way that won't bore him or push him away.

There is so much to take from this book. First of all, it's great writing, straightforward and quirky. You are immediately drawn into the lives of these people. Secondly, the entire structure of the book revolves around the amazing films that David and Jesse watch. This book would keep your Friday movie nights stocked for months, even years. 

But mostly, this book speaks to me as a teacher looking for new insights on how to motivate the unmotivated. And it gives hope to those of us who might plod along, trying desperately to reach those sullen teenagers.

I don't feel I can do The Film Club justice will my meagre descriptions, so you'll just have to go out and read it yourself. You can buy it used or new on Amazon for about $14, or grab it at your local library-- it won the Governor General's Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction (not sure how it can be both, but whatever), so if you're Canadian you'll definitely find it.

To conclude this nice light Thursday evening post, I'll include some quotes I found particularly gripping. Let me know what you think of one, some, or all of them.

On The Bicycle Thief (1948): 
"... we sometimes calibrate our moral positions, what's right, what's wrong, depending on what we need at that particular moment."

On appreciating a story: 
"You need to know how it ends before you can appreciate how beautifully it's put together from the beginning."

On university: 
"'You know what I think,' I said. 'I think you belong in university. That's what they do there. They sit around talking about stuff like this. Except unlike a living room where there's just your dad, there's a zillion girls.'
At that he cocked his head. 'Really?'
And like that first day-- it seemed like ages ago-- with The 400 Blows, I knew to leave it there."

On film:
"There's a certain effect films have on you when you're very young, I explained; they give you an imaginative experience in a way that is hard to recapture when you're older."

And my very favourite:
"How little I can give him, I thought, just these little apple slices of reassurance like feeding a rare animal at the zoo."

And since I know Jon adores films of all kinds, I'll let him have at it.

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Courtney posted at 7:28 PM - Comments (2)


I'm surprised that haven't read The Film Club yet. Gah! There are so many books to read and so little time.

I chose Impact Teaching by R.H. Allen and I absolutely love it (so far). It's humorous and educational. Let me know how you like Letters to a Young Teacher.

By Blogger Ashley, at July 30, 2009 at 9:23 PM  

Oh, I'm glad to hear your PROF book is good! I might have to pick that one up when I'm done mine... sooo many books to read. Good thing I have a long commute!

I'm liking Letters to a Young Teacher so far but I didn't realize it had more of a primary focus. A bit unexpected, but I think it'll still be beneficial to me as a secondary teacher. I'll keep you posted, since I'm only on the first chapter. :)


By Blogger Courtney and Jon, at July 31, 2009 at 9:31 AM  

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