Students will be able to analyze the moral dilemma faced by Atticus and Heck Tate in the final scene of To Kill a Mockingbird.
On my agenda on the board I had written “finish TKaM” and, without fail, every period someone walked in and asked what that stood for. Six times they asked, and six times I raised an eyebrow, counted to four, and five times they went, “Oh! To Kill a Mockingbird. Duh.” The six time she waited patiently for me to tell her what it stood for. I’ll give them the Monday benefit of the doubt card; maybe their brains just don’t work the first day of the week. Either way, today we officially finished To Kill a Mockingbird, albeit in film form, and are ready to jump on the study guide, take the test, and move on to something new.
My first semester in college I took an introduction to sound cinema course and absolutely loved it. We’d do close readings of films the same way I did close readings of passages of literature in AP English class. For a few short weeks that first semester of college, I dreamed of how much fun it would be to be a film studies major, and spend all of college holed up in the multiple theaters and screening rooms dotted around campus, watching human life as a visual art form. Then I realized that I had no desire to work in the film industry and it was harder to talk my way into a non-film job with that type of degree, so I decided to be an English major. My first paper in my expository writing class earned me a C and a “please see me” from the professor, so the next week I decided I was a history major. Turns out history majors read too much, so I ended up in sociology. Thank goodness Harvard didn’t require me to officially declare a major until my third semester so I avoided a lot of paperwork, but while watching the end scene of To Kill a Mockingbird for the sixth time today, the irony hit me. I am currently a certified history and English teacher doing a close reading of a classic, American Film Institute top-ranking film – three discarded majors. I finish so many days wondering if my kids learned anything at all, and wonder if I had majored in English or History, would I be a better teacher?
When I watch a movie for the first time, I focus on plot. When I watch a movie for the sixth time in the same number of hours, I begin to focus more on the facial expressions of the characters, on the sets, and most especially, the score. It fired me up to introduce my students to other wonderful classics such as On the Waterfront, It’s a Wonderful Life, or Citizen Kane – all movies I bet they’ve never seen before. Unfortunately none of those fit into my state-mandated curricula, but a girl can dream.
The first Monday of every month is declared College Day, and the teachers can wear blue jeans with a college top. Today I wore my Harvard sweatshirt, and was immediately transported to a chilly October afternoon, drinking hot chocolate in the dining hall and pretending to study when in fact I was having those deep philosophical conversations with my friends that really were the heart of college. I then remembered I teach 15-year-olds south of the Mason-Dixon line where a snow forecast closes everything, and sighed. Like a said, a girl can dream.
My kids started asking me about Harvard today; we talked about different forms of financial aid colleges off (merit & need-based) as well as what you need to apply. While they’re only sophomores, many of them have no clue what getting into college is like, so I felt it was a valuable discussion. I told them I rowed intramural crew, and they didn’t know what crew was, so we looked up a youtube video of a team at the Head of the Charles regatta. I tried to tell them that it wasn’t my boat but they were on my river, which was a poor choice of words. “I didn’t know you had a river, Mrs. H,” I heard. Thus far they’ve decided I must be “really really smart”, which is somewhat gratifying – most alumni will tell you that their entrance to an Ivy League just showed them how not smart they really were. It’s nice to feed my kids the 10 words of French I still remember and have them look impressed.