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That was fast!
Darlings, As predicted, I lost all ability to do other work after work for the month of September. Back from sabbatical, I feel like a brand new teacher - completely spent by 4 o’clock, in bed by 8 an embarrassing number of times. But it's been really good. My classes are interesting, the students are great, the school is feeling great. My Film program, launching softly, is being taken up enthusiastically. Best, in my opinion, is my reintegrating into the school’s organizational structure and finding so many tasks I used to sweat over privately have been adopted and improved by my peers - it is incredible to be surrounded by so much competence.
And kindness! The mindfulness meditation culture that Matt's been building out for seven or eight years is robust and present everywhere. So many things are solved when a population has a general idea of how to stop, breathe and get calm; that plus the school's radical kindness is transformative. I'm very happy to be home and teaching, as much as I miss the desert and the mountains and the ocean.
Fixing a Course Already In Progress
I thought I'd be returning to shell-shocked and kinda fragile students, which is how it was in 2020 and 2021 - so I planned to deliver the lighter and more inwardly focused Teens on Film version of my grade 11 Film Studies course: all movies about teens from across time and from all angles. I was wrong: they’re not shell-shocked, they’re starved for interaction. My specific film class is so excitedly hyper that they can't bear long conversations - they just want to DO STUFF! I knew the course was off from the beginning, and tried a few different tacks to make it worthwhile: I tested the waters on doing a great big all-group practical project, sketching out a potential horror movie with them, but they were way too scattered for that and I surrendered it.
I changed it to tiny groups (and individuals, always an option) to do a tiny little film project (shots/angles/movement exercise) and personal production logos, which was pretty successful. Then we put on a showing for the rest of the school for Truth and Reconciliation week (a newish Canadian observation, very overdue and positive) - studying and then showing Slash/Back, the film from last summer by Nyla Innuksuk. (I’ll share deets and thoughts on that really fun film here later, I hope. I am assuming that I’ll get my wind back soon.)
Then I did something I've never done: I sat with the class (in bursts of focus) and let them choose (from a list I provided) what we'd like to study this year (always with caveats and a veto option by me). In between endless requests to watch each person's latest favourite movie (Nope, Top Gun Maverick, The Dead of Night), we carved out an interesting syllabus: we'll be studying
Top Gun (I can't believe it! but it's defensible as significant in editing history, so we'll try it. I've never even seen it),
The Matrix, and
Children of Men,
with room left for a couple of additions. Now that I’ve begun to find the class’s flavour, I think it’ll be a lot of fun. But if I was a new teacher, I’d have found this extraordinarily difficult. There were several days in there where I thought I was maybe just incapable - but experience has taught me to ignore that feeling and find a path. Kids like learning, kids dig movies, movies are fun, and in a school like mine, I can be flexible … so there has to be a way to make it work.
Alright, I gotta go do stuff for tomorrow’s classes. I hope y’all are great.
Onwards and upwards