Simple Ideas

Class Prep

Blogging | September 20, 2012

Other professors talk about “class prep” and we have it on our timecards. So I list it as something I do during work hours. But my work life is this. I teach. I travel, like I am now, to a class. That takes hundreds of hours a year. Then, thanks to our messed up travel system, I spend hundreds more writing travel orders and filing travel claims. There isn’t any time left for class prep per se. It all the kind of production experience that can turn one into a burn out. So that is why I need to do other things to prep. In my case, it is watching movies as much as anything. Without trying, I found three movies this weekend that involved professors. That was in no way the intended theme, it just worked out that way.

The first film up was an oldie that I do so love. Little Miss Sunshine. As kid characters go, I do enjoy Olive Hoover. She is the backwoods lass from New Mexico who gets in over her head in a beauty contest, but pulls through in the end. Not to win, but to make a statement about herself and her family.

The Professor in that one is a renowned Proust Scholar who attempts suicide. As failures go, failed suicide attempters are a cut above the rest. Then there is the teen age brother. His line early on “I hate everyone” is written as he now longer speaks by choice. When pressed on this, he underlines “everyone”. As a personal role model goes, this guy has a lot to offer.

As far as prepping for class goes, this was of value for frame of mind and dealing with adversity. One the road trip, nothing goes right, and the family just keeps going and rolling with the problems. Going into class thinking everything will be fine is nuts. A number of things will go wrong and I’ll have to roll with them as they pop up. Probably the key scene on that was the one where Greg Kinear was stopped by the cop with his dead father in the trunk of the van. He holds it together just long enough for his dad’s and his brother in laws porn magazines to fall out. The cop sees those and doesn’t check what is under the sheet. It is a well-played scene and a reminder that caving is not your only option. Play the scenes out and see if you have an out you didn’t see at the start.

Next up was the film “Luther”. I have to admit to only partially watching this, but what I did see was solid. The Fiennes guy who played Martin Luther did a fine job of selling the character. Sure the film over all was a “kill the Catholics” effort and that was as much as anything the thrust of man’s life as we know it. He ran across some of the same busts in the religion that I found. Basically the church running the indulgence Ponzi scheme and arguing that only followers of the Roman Pope make it to heaven.

The film was heavily biased and that is my teaching lesson here. It was a yellow film. I don’t need to do yellow teaching, even if I think that the subject matter is best treated by a few gallons of urine. Need to let the students figure that out. Those who are sharp will. Those who are ideologues in favor of the garbage in question will never be swayed. So there is no other rational approach. In spite of how good it feels to unload one’s bladder on a topic that could use that.

The third film also involved education, this time more explicitly. That film was “Back to School” and it featured Rodney Dangerfield. Not one that I thought I would have liked, but it was recommended by Hakeem Olajuwon. If it is good enough for an NBA center, it might be good enough for me. Turned out it was. Not a lot of depth to the film, but it had enough to stay with me.

The lesson on this one had to do with watching your people’s back and not throwing them under a bus. The main characters that stick together come out ahead and the back stabbers end up on the sidelines. Yes, it’s a cheesy moral tale, but I can see how it applies to an NBA player as that dynamic has to be huge on a big league team. With the money and the ego’s involved, the team player message is one I like to see Hakeem get behind via this film. He wasn’t pumping that aspect of it, but I suspect that is part of the attraction to the film.

And in my case that is exactly what I’m doing now. My coteacher is unprepared for class today and making a mess of the proceedings. I’m doing my darndest to keep my mouth shut and not “fix” all the errors real time. Sure the students are getting the short end of this stick, but on the upside, the coteach is coming at this from a populist point of view that will get him “points” on the end of class rating. And since that is what I put out as my personal goal for this year.

But good lord, this is a test for me.


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