26 February 2008


in the movie "Dangerous Minds", michelle pfeiffer plays an ex-marine (a stretch, i know) who is suckered into a new job teaching english to a group of inner-city misfits. as a onetime teacher, i found her approach quite interesting. she was able to actually engage her students' interest and stretch their imaginations with (audible gasp!) poetry. at one point in the movie, she challenges her kids to read the poetry of dylan thomas and the lyrics of bob dylan, and try to find parallels. hence, the dylan-dylan contest.

the process of teaching is powerful and subtle and immensely rewarding. a number of decent movies have been made about it, some predictable, others quite original and insightful. in the years since teaching math, algebra, biology and environmental studies to similarly-challenging students in suburban philadelphia, the structured teaching i've done has been limited mostly to chess. here, classroom rules and expectations can be done away with. my approach is very relaxed, gradual, two minds working together to discover the interplay of pieces on the board, with an emphasis on expanding horizons and having fun!

i've long felt that poor students are a product of poor teaching, and that we as a culture fail our children by not providing them with the finest teachers and labs and facilities that money can buy. won't it be a fine day, as the old bumper sticker states, when schools will have all the funding they need, and the air force has to hold a bake sale to finance their new bomber?

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