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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Cultural Studies, Part 1 (Films for Teachers)
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Because seriously - teachers could do with seeing more films... and we all know students could do with reading more books. That's not to say that teachers are all huge bookworms and students are all film fanatics but you know... probably more likely that way around than the other. I'll likely add to this as I see more films/read more books but I thought I'd take the time to highlight some films that made me think about teaching in a different way, and some books that really influenced me when I was a student.

Films for Teachers:

1. Dead Poets Society. Carpe Diem! The definitive "this is why we should study English" film, it's very obvious why I think it's a great piece, not just for English teachers (though they will be able to appreciate it more), but for all teachers in general. Superb acting and dialogue, and some very interesting ideas we might integrate into our own lessons.

2. August Rush. A music teacher specialty. I might have trouble making music education as ultra-progressive as the ideas in this film. The idea simply being that "The music all around us. All you have to do is listen."

3. The Girl Next Door. No, this is not just my undying love for this film finding its way into every list of recommendations I make. We've written about moral education right? This is it. At its finest. I have a feeling this film will creep into my lessons here and there simply because it encapsulates one of the most important lessons I learned as a student. While we try to uphold the general standards of right and wrong in school, I think it's important to help our students understand that in real life, things are rarely defined that way; that sometimes, you've got to find out what it's like "to cheat, to steal, to lie, to live and die." If the juice is worth the squeeze...

4. Accepted. Highly highly unrealistic. But also highly entertaining and oddly revealing. The idea behind this film is valid. Accepted pits 2 very different ideas of "college" against one another. And while most real life colleges are somewhere in between, you have to give this film credit for trying to point out that while the pursuit of knowledge if all good and well, practical application SHOULD have a place in academia. As a teen comedy, Accepted would, of course, take this to the extreme (otherwise it wouldn't be FUNNY and then people would find it boring and then it wouldn't sell...), but the fundamental point is there.

5. Big Fish. All teachers should appreciate the value of storytelling. And that is exactly what Big Fish is about. Oftentimes, it's not so much what happens that's worth hearing; it's the way we present it. And we teachers will be presenting ideas all our lives so it's definitely a skill to practice.

6. V for Vendetta. Aside from being an excellent companion film to 1984 (and Guy Fawkes Day), I always liked some of the ideas presented in V for Vendetta: symbolism, politics and the relationship between the government and its people... and of course. there's the very excellent speech by Hugo Weaving as to why language and words are such powerful tools. As an English teacher, I always point out, if you can master the English language, you can talk like Hugo Weaving in V for Vendetta. And who doesn't want to have that kind of charm, charisma, and linguistic fluidity at their disposal?

7. Take the Lead. Aside from its cool dance moves, Take the Lead is also good because it shows that once you get students interested in something, they very often take their own initiative. The willingness of one teacher to sacrifice what Antonio Banderas sacrifices for his students is also inspiring to watch. Oh yeah, did I mention it's a true story?

8. The History Boys. An... interesting film to say the least. I don't think I can do anything better than to quote what flixster says about it: "The film centers on an unruly class of bright, funny teenage boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a college degree. Bounced between their maverick English teacher, a young and shrewd professor hired to up their test scores, a grossly out-numbered history teacher, and a headmaster obsessed with results, the boys attempt to sift through it all to pass the daunting university admissions process. Their journey becomes as much about how education works, as it is about where education leads."

9. Good Will Hunting(?). Apparently, this is good. I personally did not think it was all that impressive but enough people are convinced that it's a good teaching film that I feel obliged to put it on this list. And what do I know about film anyway?

Part 2 coming soon! Books for students, a.k.a. books you might consider reading/recommending to your own students.

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Jonathan posted at 8:42 PM - Comments (2)


Oooooh, I LOVE The History Boys. But you knew that.

I always think about the "Stalin was a sweetie, Wilfred Owen was a wuss" thing when I'm writing exams and papers, haha.

Do you think a principal would let you show The Girl Next Door in class?

By Blogger Courtney, at July 31, 2009 at 9:35 AM  

Hard to say. I still haven't quite figured out what it's rated in Canada (definitely R in the States but Love Actually is rated R in the States so...)

By Blogger Jonathan, at July 31, 2009 at 12:54 PM  

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