Sunday, March 8, 2009

all it takes is one

it is quite lovely to have a non-working relaxing quiet weekend. i suppose this is what "normal" people do. this work/life balance thing is turning out nicely as i was able to go see the film, Entre le murs or "The Class", this afternoon. two films in two days! i can't remember the last time i did this..... well regardless....it has been long overdue.

as i was still full from my eating adventure around the sf ferry building yesterday (to be written about in more detail at a later point), i pretty much didn't eat anything until after the film was over. i wandered around in a pensive mood thinking about what i wanted to have for dinner and i found myself heading toward oscar's for a burger and some fries. interesting how my comfort food isn't exactly foie gras (no matter how much i love it)...but rather heartier earthy fare like burgers, soups, breads, noodles, etc.

as i sat there, looking outside and noshing on my hearty burger and fries, i was thinking about The Class. the words and phrases that immediately came to mind were "expectations. challenges. dynamics of care. frustrations. being human." it was also interesting to see the issues of educational expectations, class, and ethnicity played out on the screen. the film was well done. i am glad that i saw it. films like "The Class" and "Medicine for Melancholy" remind me of why i like going to the movies. while i will not deny that i love me some silly violent action flick in the hellboy vein....i don't go to those movies to for intellectual stimulation or inspiration. unlike "The Class", those sort of movies don't put me in a pensive mood.

teachers have a difficult job. given that i am a bit of a misanthrope anyway, it shouldn't be a surprise to any of you dear hearts that there weren't very many teachers i had respect for during my formal education. i took some courses from some incredibly awful teachers. for most of my adolescence, i looked at school as something that i had to "get through" in order to get a good job. a good job meant freedom and financial independence. there was no way i was going to be living back in the tenderloin.

i was a sophomore in high school when i met the first teacher that i would obtain respect for. i knew that this would be my last year of high school and i pretty much thought that it was going to be pretty similar to the year before....you know....focusing on parties, dances, games, the pizza job, hangin' out with friends until dawn, and breezing through my studies. good grades were not a problem for me. by this point in my education, i was a quietly insolent kid in class. how can one be quietly insolent you ask? very easily if you are the stubborn foodie hunter. for example, i would do my honors math homework during religion class. the teacher, rightly annoyed, required me to sit in the first row.....right in front of her. this was her way of trying to get me to pay attention in her class. it didn't work. i did my math homework literally under her nose. she gave up after she realized that every time she called on me, i wouldn't even look up from my math homework to give her the correct answer to her various questions. the message was very clear: "don't mess with me and i won't mess with you."

i was quite a shit.

so my heart went out to Mr. Marin, the teacher in The Class...who is trying to reach these angry insolent kids. i could painfully see how The Class carries a level of verisimilitude. for the many awful teachers out there, there are also ones that truly try to reach their kids and they do make a difference. unfortunately, many of the good teachers won't find out whether they have made a difference....and i have a feeling that can be quite discouraging.

yet for me, when i was the 14 year old angry and insolent shit, i did meet a teacher that made a world of difference. he was a new teacher who joined the english department and he tried something different. he taught his english class through the framework of speech and debate. it was through logic and reason that he gained my respect. he gave me the freedom and space to think. he provided a constructive outlet for my anger. he allowed me to write pro arguments on topics that didn't exactly mesh with the school's religious pedagogy. for example, i wrote and passionately argued for: the distribution of condoms in high schools, abortion, capital punishment, needle distribution for drug addicts, and many more topics that would have curled the hair of the religious administration. it was the only class that i didn't cut that year.

what i learned from that one class....from that one teacher....substantially contributed to my success at university. as a 15 year old college freshman, i did not have to take any remedial english courses. i eventually went on to graduate from Berkeley with a degree in english....with honors. this is tangible evidence that his teaching and training provided the foundation i needed. quality vs quantity. so for all of the frustrated yet truly committed teachers out there.....who wonder if they are really making a difference.....you really are.

it really does just take one teacher to make a difference.

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