Monday, March 12, 2007

Amy's suggestion to catch a movie a day is wonderfully optimistic and deserves a big grin. It's great to aim high, though the reality of our situation is that we really are swamped with work that demands our attention this week -- either deadlines that must be met, or face the prospect of an insurmountable backlog when term begins again next week.

Nevertheless, today we put her audacious plan in action. HP had a coupon for a 1-for-1 deal on the mixed grill at Billy Bombers, Cathay. The meal plus a side of coleslaw fed 4 of us, Amy, HP, Josh and me, quite adequately. Cost effectively, too.

After lunch, we watched "The History Boys". It was somewhat lighthearted, though not quite the comedy that the promos promised. 3 teachers tutor 8 promising young lads in the Oxford/Cambridge entrance exam History paper. Each teacher provides a different perspective of History and the boys struggle to make sense of it all. Much of the time, the boys don't see the point of some of the learning activities -- including improvised role-playing in the French language (even though they don't require French on the exam), singing silly songs, memorizing copious amounts of recitation, and opening up in free-for-all debates with no resolution. But they engage in the activities anyway, motivated as they are because they really are bright kids.

The boys also hit the library often, borrowing armsful of dusty old books to write essay after essay which get critiqued not for their knowledge content, but rather for the banality of their presentation. After all, the kids know their stuff, but they need to use their knowledge to intrigue the top brains in the top colleges in the UK if they are to stand a chance of getting in.

It turns out that through all the work the boys put in, they do become smarter than their teachers, and accomplish that which their teachers could not do -- read History at Oxford/Cambridge.

Of course, there's a little more excitement in the plot, but all I could focus on was how much I want KI to run like this History class. Activities function to practice and apply the knowledge the kids bring into class with them, and not merely teach for content sake alone. The onus is on the kids to do their research and their readings, to come up with questions to ask and debate over, and to decide what the agenda for the class will be for the day.

The movie wasn't so inspirational as it was a glimpse into what things could be like. The boys aren't perfect, and neither are the teachers, but they believe in the big picture and find a way to work together for the same goal.

Not sure what the rest of the week is gonna be like, but today's programme was a much needed morale-boost in its novelty. Much appreciated!

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