Before Christmas break I had my English 3 class reading and writing poetry. It was going like everything else. They hated the reading and their writing was all about how thug they are, how they be smokin’ Mary Jane and gettin’ it all the time, yo. Their subject matter was garbage for the most part, but they liked the writing.
So, when we reconvened, with seven school days before I have a student teacher joining us, I thought we’d continue with some poetry before starting something new, focusing on Walt Whitman mostly, and then watch Dead Poets Society, a movie I’d only seen once back when it first came out on VHS. I had to order a DVD from eBay. I watched it tonight and it made me think about what a failure I am as a teacher.
I had more kids fail last semester than I’ve ever had fail before. I’ve been blaming the kids. They don’t do their work. They won’t participate in discussion. They won’t pay attention. They don’t care. All that’s true, but it’s my job to inspire them. And I haven’t done that. I think some of the reason is exactly because of what Dead Poets Society is all about. I’ve tried to be unorthodox like Robin Williams portrayed Mr. Keating in the film, but when the students don’t immediately respond, I drop the act.
It shouldn’t be an act. I am excited about literature and writing and I should express that every hour of every day. If they’re not going to do anything, they’re not going to do it whether I drone at them about rhyme schemes from the front of the room or prowl among them preaching how the truth of poetry is as important as scientific facts. So I might as well do what I want and make it fun for me, at least.
On Monday we’re reading and analyzing Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” before starting the movie on Tuesday. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh start.