Sunday, March 17, 2013

Am I the Peter Jackson in my classroom?

I love movies. I love watching them, talking about them, reading about how they are made, watching shows about them...I even love websites that list movie mistakes. I am one of those people that stays until the very last credit has rolled up and off the movie theatre screen, because I like to see how many people were involved, what their roles were, where the movie was filmed, etc. The sheer numbers of people involved always astounds me, heck, it astounds me that movies are ever completed, never mind that many are so good that they transport you, and sometimes even change your life.

Sometimes I see parallels in teaching.

I read somewhere that a teacher makes hundreds of decisions per day, so our job is probably proportionately as complex as the making of a movie. And I am always astounded at the end of the year to see how far my students have come, how much work we all did to get there, and the variety of things they produced - colourful blog posts, geogebras, videos, glogs, voicethreads, not to mention beautifully solved math problems.

Teachers can be control freak perfectionist artists, like many directors. I'm sure that every great director will always find things about their masterpieces that they think need fixing, even without websites like And so it is for teachers. We're never done, are we? It's the double-edged sword that keeps you fresh, but never lets you rest. I suppose it is a small price to pay FOR BEING BRILLIANT. Back me up Steven Spielberg?

Movies also make me think about my my own career. I think I used to see my role as the actor, or at least the performer, to my students, and I probably still do, to some extent. I am always wrestling with my inner drama queen.

But those days are over, or at least, coming to an end. I can't stomach how teacher-centric I have been. So I've been working really hard to put my students at the centre of the stage, as it were, by flipping the class, taming my explainaholicism, trying to come up with activities that unleash their creativity, and handing over to others the privilege and joy of shining light in dark places.

But like usual, there's still something to fix.

I got a hint this morning about what it is.

I was just watching a show called "The Role that Changed My Life", in which Orlando Bloom was featured for his role as Legolas in The Lord of Rings movies. Of course various people were being interviewed as part of the story, and at one point, Viggo Mortensen said that all the actors and crew in the movie gave more than the director asked them to, because they were all genuinely interested in the story that they were telling.

Hmmmm. Dreaming really big here, but, how's this for a parallel:

If I am the Peter Jackson in my classroom...

.....and my students are the actors and crew, what would be the story that they are all taken up with, to the point that they would give more than I asked them to? A story that can only be told with the varied talents and inspiration of many people, who together create something  that could change someone's life? Is that too crazy, and is it even possible in today's schools?

The story sure as heck isn't going to be the curriculum as it is. Is it a project? And whose project? When a movie is made, the story is already written, but that doesn't take away from the devotion, hard work, and genius that the actors, costumers, crew, etc contribute to the final product.

And why am I assuming that I'm the director, anyway? Maybe I'm the writer. Maybe I'm the producer. Okay, enough with the movie terms. What would I be?

I try to blog about very practical, use-this-right-away stuff, but today I'm just dreaming. If you have any ideas of what kind of story, or project, or idea could do such a thing in a classroom, or if you are already doing that, I'd love to hear about it.

And thanks, movie people, especially you, Viggo.


  1. Whatever the irresistible project(s) that you and your students develop together, I want to be in the crew. I am already devoted, just to the idea.

    1. Awww tks Dianne, as usual, you are so supportive, and believe me, have no doubt that it makes all the difference in the world!