Movie watching. 144 minutes of complete entertainment and at the end an awareness that to share it in a school setting would require a tremendous amount of juggling between timetables. Over two hours and each minute compelling, meant breaking it into 45-50 minute “chunks” would simply render the movie an antique, and remove the energy and enthusiasm and challenge the story itself presented. In my “ideal” school design, there would be a viewing room where students would be able to have a deeper experience with the medium than the short and at times chopped up viewings that are often given to a class. Many of the older films took seriously the concept that a story could be explored, even while allowing a viewer to come to one’s own conclusions about the characters- neither preachy nor in one’s face with action and special effects, the mood was capable of offering both the “escape” (from regular routine) and the challenge to empathetic response that the arts – participation in the arts- encourages.
For the record this wasn’t a film that I had watched before, nor was it in English- subtitles helped but the sounds of the language in which it was set made for extra enjoyment. And Empathy with a capital E; first offered in the 1960s, in black and white, the “foreign” setting added to the tone, while images of high style juxtaposed with the very gritty, both romanticized and de-glamourized a life of crime.
The High School students I have worked with are often craving a change of pace and a chance to deeply explore ideas. Going deeper suggests examining the layers of nuanced information, unpacking a story both for the content and for the way it was presented. Project based learning, flipped classrooms, to test or not to test…back and forth the arguments are waged and emphasis placed on “real world” material- translation- will the learning later provide “work”? Given that no singular style of classroom setting, no singular type of testing, no singular school environment has been proven to actually “guarantee” students a future with the possible exception of ‘apprentice’ style learning and then “owning” a mentor’s position, it seems relevant to suggest that instead of declaring “empathy” a needed character trait that schools are now to “teach” within programs variously labelled and meant to promote Character Development – why not offer students a chance to debate, and care about others in situations beyond their personal experiences? After all, empathy demystifies the “other” , recognizing instead the similarities over the differences.
STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math- please don’t forget about the A.