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September 8, 2006


“I’m telling my friends I watched The Wall in my first class.”

I figure this is a sign of success. :-) Gosh, I have a great group! They came in all friendly and talkative. BAM - we had a major issue with the tv/dvd player. Since the entire lesson plan (hence, the semester!) hinged on this, I wasn’t so willing to let it go. Get this, two of the students went up to their room to bring down a different tv! In the meantime, one of the techheads finally figured out all the right settings. (I’m sure, according to Murphy’s Law, that if the others had not gone to fetch a backup we would not have solved the problem.)

I wouldn’t tell them what movie we were watching….once we got it going, the first recognition was laughter, then someone said, “You wouldn’t do this to us!?!?" I asked, “Why not?” :-) [This student had just bought the dvd and watched half of it the previous night.]

After 20 minutes or so I stopped and had them write (per David’s tip). One student who arrived late had a few questions about what to write. I kept it vague (as I had for the others but they had more time to assimilate the task). I did share one of Natalie Goldberg’s tips: “Tell the truth in detail.”

At least one student did seem to have thought about something other than the movie – I hope this comes out in the actual writing. Maybe Pink Floyd didn’t catch everyone’s attention? Or required an occasional “time out”? One student asked a specific question about the content of the film and I innovated on the spot. (Confession: it actually took me a minute or two to recognize that this was a teaching/learning moment. I had re-started the video then stopped it again, deciding it was ok to change my mind so obviously.) I asked for us to brainstorm questions (not to be answered now, but what was on their minds, what they were wondering, curious about):

*Is this based on the real experience of Roger Waters?
*When was it made? (some discussion ensued; no answer)
*Who’s the preacher with the nazi thing?
*It’s weird – lonely, images of a mob, then he’s talking to the mob, is he the cause? But he’s disgusted…?
*Why show only the downside of war? (Someone countered, it does show pictures of the Red Cross helping people survive.)
*Is the war real or merely symbolic of the emotions in his life/head? (Someone said it is WWII, and I added that it can be both factual and used for symbolic purposes.)
*It seems the message is being spread through the music?
*Is he trapped in his own head?
*Is it making a parallel of teenage culture to war? (Hitleresque, captivated teens…)

We watched some more, wrote a little more, and then brainstormed a quick list of ways that people might approach writing the 2-3 page paper. The idea of this list wasn’t to set parameters, limits, or boundaries, but just to pose some possibilities.

*Compare different orientations to school/schooling
*Differences between the decades/eras
*Now known by student ID#, in the film as bricks, masks
*Violent masses and partying kids
*Buying different stuff (new school year!) – accumulation of things, “better stuff”
*Flower thing, with sex, then the women at the concert

I’m thinking that their writing will work into the Interview Activity, in fact, it occurred to me to have each person responsible for two introductions: one based on notes that they take from their in-person interview, and one based on the sense they get of a person from reading their generative writing. This could open up a conversation about the differences and similarities between face-to-face direct interaction and text-mediated interaction.

The other way cool thing that happened was a comment about time from the student who had just watched part of the dvd the previous night. It was probably 30-45 minutes of viewing time, but "felt like I'd been watching for four and a half hours!" I asked if other students felt like time was extended or drawn out while viewing it and many agreed it was (head nods, murmurs). One said, “It’s so trippy!” Yeah, it is – much to consider. :-) There’s a scene when the boy gets rapped on the knuckles by the teacher for writing poetry during class. It then transitions to various kinds of unpleasant disciplinary events in family and schooling – then we suddenly shift back to the same boy, in the same moment or just after he got smacked. Did that whole previous sequence unfold in his mind in merely a few seconds?

This variability in temporality - of the experience of time - is an opening to a feature of contemporary identity-construction I hope to discuss. I told the students, before we watched the dvd, about my hypothesis that their minds actually operate differently than mine. Not because of age, but because when I grew up mass media was not as advanced nor as pervasive. Young people growing up now are operating with minds that have been besieged by input…a major challenge is s-l-o-w-i-n-g d-o-w-n one's thinking enough to recognize one’s own thought processes: to actually be quiet for long enough to know your own mind.

(I neglected to tell them that I’m still practicing this myself. :-) Instead, I emphasized the ways I’ve had to adapt to faster paces than my mind was originally trained to keep up with as a kind of opposite stretch to what they’ll have to do.)

Posted by Steph at September 8, 2006 2:00 PM


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