This past month, Worthington City Schools engaged in a 20-Day Twitter Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to get in a habit of using Twitter, so each day a question was posted for everyone to answer with the hashtag #itsworthit. On Day 18, we were asked to share our favorite movie about education. Many people responded with great movies, such as Coach Carter, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and Dead Poet’s Society. In addition to seeing my parents last weekend and getting my cultural “Indian” fix devouring parthas and saag paneer, I watched my now favorite educational movie that happened to be made in India – 3 Idiots.
The focus for most educational movies is the teacher who imparts unconventional wisdom to look past the barriers that prevent learning and connect with students on a deeper level through relationships and trust. Yet, in this movie, it is three students, the “idiots”, who band together to change the out-dated, institutional focus of education. Like most Hindi movies, the characters break in to dances and singing to lighten the mood, while reinforcing the theme. For this movie, the overall theme is “All is Well“; the notion that, in the midst of confusion and trials, it is our attitude and outlook that allows us to reach above it all. While I recommend you watch the entire movie, I provided three scenes with three take-aways that impart how we need to reshape our thinking and structures to meet the needs of our students.
Before reading the text after each subtitle, I encourage you to click on the subtitle links to watch the movie clip in advance for context.
Throughout the movie, the main character questions the purpose and concept of “school”. While he was eager and possessed a thirst for learning, he was constantly frustrated by the hurdles the educational system and teachers created in the name of rigor and challenge. Does your classroom define rigor through knowledge and comprehensive activities, like memorizing rote facts or definitions? Or, do you create problem-based learning opportunities for students to synthesize, apply, and evaluate information for relevant learning. We tend to recognize students that fit in a box that measures quick recall (Spelling Bee, Jeopardy, Who’s Smarter Than a 5th Grader). Yet, do we provide students time to think, create, and explore their learning (in their own way), in activities like Genius Hour, Passion Projects, or in a Makerspace.
You may have heard about this “urban legend” of the students being able to get away with turning in a late assignment due to the professor not knowing their names. Seeing this story in a movie setting further reveals the tragedy of not knowing our students. While you may know their names, have you gone further to know their dreams, hopes, and aspirations? Do you know what they struggle with, their fears, and their life beyond your classroom? Just like the students in the movie, they knew their teacher did not know them. How tragic for students to go all semester or year in classroom without a positive relationship being made.
My final take-away came from the scene in which the main student had gone too far in providing his feedback on how learning should occur to the Dean. No longer tolerant of the student’s arrogance, the Dean led him to a classroom to teach a lesson and enlighten him on good teaching. The student took some time to think and then wrote two nonsense words on the board instructing the class to find the definition in a limited amount of time. The result was a lesson that evoked the notion that learning should not be created in an environment of fear and pressure. The proper environment should invoke curiosity and passion. As a teacher, is your motivation through grades? Look at your classroom rules and the environment created. If you have relationship and trust built, it might be worth asking your students. Do you focus on the top students, or have a plan to ensure growth for all students?
I encourage you to watch the whole movie at some point. In addition to the three findings I shared, there are countless others in this movie. As we continue to transform our country’s educational shifts, I am glad we can reach out to our colleagues in other countries focused on the same work!