Sunday, March 22, 2009

That's Not Funny

Last night I went to the movies for the first time in what may be almost a year. "I Love You, Man" turned out to be worth the exorbitant $10.75; in general it was sweet, smart, full of quotables but still funny the first time. But there was one minor character whose presence was like sticking a knife in my stomach and turning it slowly. This is of course no offense to Ethan Smith or Nelson Franklin or whichever actor played this guy (thanks for the unclear credits, IMDB).

He first appears in a scene where a group of male friends has spent a Sunday afternoon together and one, Sidney, is trying to get the others to stick around for dinner. One guy can't stay because he has plans with his in-laws. Another guy promised to take his kids out to dinner. The third? He has to leave because Sunday night is for grading papers. As soon as this line came out, my friend who I saw the movie with--who is also a teacher--gave me a look and we both sank down in our seats with that painful horror of empathy.

Then there's another scene where again Sidney is trying to get his friends to go out with him. We see him on the phone saying things like, "You're taking your kids to dinner again?" As he calls the third friend, Sidney says "I know that's not what education is about. Can't you just give them all B-plusses?" Again there were glances of shared anguish and further sinking into seats.

I get it. The truth is funny. Ha ha. Hilarious. Except when it's not funny at all because it's your life and things that you and your friends actually say, pretty much word-for-word.

I will give the movie credit for one thing (besides being a generally excellent movie). Although the teacher appeared for maybe a total of 60 seconds and had only one line, this was one of the most realistic portrayals of a teacher I've ever seen. To begin with, he's absent from his friendships and barely makes time for one social event. Furthermore, the writers' grouping of the teacher with the married/parenting friends demonstrates a clear understanding that being a teacher is tantamount in responsibility and busy-ness to having a new wife or a new baby. Except nobody writes movies where the happy ending entails taking a teaching job.


SWE said...

Given the CA budget woes, maybe that taking a teaching job movie ending is on its way...

And, if you're in a B-plus kind of mood next weekend, we'd love to get together!

Roni said...

Who says you can't have a life as a teacher? Sure, there are a lot of responsibilities, but we don't have to succumb to the social expectations that we sacrifice everything for the job. Other social servants working in essential sectors (law enforcement, postal work, health care, etc) don't have this expectation and neither should we. They have learned how to end their shifts and we should take a lesson.

I would argue that this social expectation has turned into a damaging and self-fulfilling stereotype. We're told that if we don't dedicate our full waking life to the kids, we're insensitive and horrible teachers. But in spending every waking minute at work we deny ourselves any exploration of our own world: we don't branch out from our habits, and learn new skills and information. This is exactly what we want our kids to do; it's exactly what made us want to sign up for this ride.

And it's what we need to do. We can't expand our minds and skills and energies if we hide behind homework assignments and imaginings of how kids should interact with the world.

Take a weekend off and leave your paperwork at work. :)

After a few years and some resource development, every teacher should seriously and unashamedly claim personal time EVERY DAY for personal play.

Liam said...

There's a movie you might be interested in called "The Class" ("Entre les murs") - it's about what happens in a classroom over the course of a year. It was nominated for best foreign language film at the Oscars, I think.