I don’t often watch movies of any kind, and I review them even less, but I think that both of these documentaries are worth reviewing.
Why Reading Matters was a BBC show about how the human species rewired our brains in order to read. Humans are not wired to read but have instead made a leap in understanding through connecting several different parts of our brain. When we read, centers light up in a certain order, connecting vision, physical experiences, past knowledge and then synthesises it so that our brains create the action that we read. In other words, if we read about dancing, kissing or fighting, our brains have instantaneously experienced that action. It was also postulated that reading promotes empathy which is the ability to understand what another person is feeling.
Waiting for Superman struck a deep chord with me because even when I was attending school I grew to understand that I was responsible for my own learning. I could recognize both good and bad teachers (I’ve had some of each at every level of my education) but in high school, I had no power to change who was teaching me. I was not surprised to have my understanding reinforced by the research showing how bad teachers have detrimental effects on students. I was surprised to see how difficult tenure made it to fire a bad teacher. I don’t agree with some of the more extreme views about breaking up the teacher’s union, but I do agree they should allow negotiation about the conditions of tenure (for example, if a teacher is on trial for a felony they should not continue to collect pay, in my opinion). I thought that the fact that the union leaders would not allow members to vote on the offer Michelle Rhee made in D.C. to increase annual pay for teachers or continue to support tenure.
I don’t think changing the requirements for tenure would ruin the union or the teaching profession. I think we should pay teachers more and / or allow parents more time to teach children at home. Parents who are dedicated teachers will naturally instil a love of learning in their children. A bad teacher can derail a child by souring his or her natural interest and curiosity. Parents who are rested and actively interested in a child’s learning are critical to create a good basis to build from. I think we should, as a society, look to the idea’s of Dr. Julius B. Richmond, founder of head start, and truly focus on the family. Good teachers can make up for a lack of support from parents, in the later years, but imagine a world where there really is no child left behind. Good teachers are most important, and we must remember that parents are the first teachers their children will have. Encouraging family time is paramount because school is set up like a factory and the students spend more time with their peer group and therefore trust peers more than anyone else.
OK I realize I am totally going off topic here – but that is the sign of a good movie – because it is making me think and wonder and imagine a different way to school.
Last note on Waiting for Superman: my nine-year old watched (most) of this movie with me (even though it wasn’t about Superman) and he was moved to tears by the plight of the children the documentary followed. He said, “When I grow up, I want to make a good school that has room for everyone!” It made me proud and hopeful.