Educating the Education System

When I attend school, back in the last century, my class mates and I considered it good when our regular teacher was away and we had a supply teacher in our class. It would often mean that rather than learning something we would sit in front of a 27 inch television with a grainy picture and watch a movie. Sometimes it would be a James Bond movie, I remember watching The Land That Time Forgot, movies that really had no educational value or relevance to the subject we were supposed to be learning about. As students, this was a fun class. It meant no homework, not reading a textbook, not having to answer questions.

Now that I so much older and I have my own children in the educational system I feel totally different about these type of days. In fact, there is quite a bit that I find questionable about schools. Even if a movie is relevent to the subject being taught, is it really teaching if students are told to watch a movie and then have to answer questions about it. For example, in a physical education class, what educational value is there in watching A League Of Their Own? Bad acting? Period music? Madonna being Madonna?

Personally speaking, I never found my driving talents improve after watching Bullett or Ronin, no matter how much I thought it had. There is a story that I actually read in an issue of Playboy (yes, I really did read the articles) about Mario Lemieux and how he learned to speak English by watching English language television programs. This is obviously the exception rather than the rule otherwise a whole generation of children would be speaking Spanish, even only to call for their backpack or to stop a fox stealing something. So if the learning value of watching a movie or television program is limited, why is it so often used in schools?

From the regular teacher’s point of view, it is obviously a lot simpler to have the supply teacher play a movie rather than writing out a lesson plan, especially if it is a subject that the regular teacher is able to teach from memory. That is not to suggest that teachers are lazy, it is difficult to deal with the everyday teaching duties without adding more on top of it. Incase anyone has any doubt, teachers are also human and often would like to have a home life with a family and even children. It is impossible to play ball, or help with a childs homework while marking essays or coming up with a test for the next day. The career of teaching can incredibly abrasive on those who choose to partake in it. Young teachers can quickly being to feel old as the amount of work needed outside of the school building overwhelms them.

New teachers are often the ones with the most passion for education and learning, the ones with new ideas, who are able to bring a new approach to teaching. Enthusiasm is infectious and students in a class cannot help but become more engaged. It is most regrettable in the current educational system, when student enrollment decline and teachers are laid off, it is those with the least amount of time in the school board who are let go first, and so those with the most passion and enthusiasm are the ones who lose their jobs leaving teachers who have perhaps become slightly jaded or tired in front of the students. Not all teachers fall into this category but there are few who can maintain their passion throughout their career.

Not all students are academically inclined and they are the ones who will suffer most from a lack of enthusiasm in the classroom. To involve these students and engage their interests, teachers often have to find alternative ways to teach the lesson rather than reading from textbooks or watching a movie, ways that may not have been taught in teachers college in ten or twenty years ago.

The profession of teaching is an important one. It is one of the oldest professions, and the one which is perhaps the most valuable for the future. More than the ability to learn by rote or repetition, infecting students with the thirst for knowledge and learning will help them will be what helps them as they leave the educational system. By failing to engage every single student in a class, the system, through the teachers, is letting some students down and leaving them behind. This is unlikely to change, no matter how many movies are shown.

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  1. Obviously your kids are in a crappy school. I went to school, sent 3 kids through school and never once had any one watch a movie. I remember going to Stratford to see plays, but never movies. Now I have heard of substitue teachers being threatened by students and being completelt out of control. Maybe they SHOULD have watched a movie

  2. Actually I was not talking about my children’s school. I work in a well respected school in London.