The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Teaching Media Studies is introducing me to the heady delights of the peripatetic optional course teacher. After ten years of teaching core subjects, it's a breath of fresh air to be considered unimportant.

At a parents' evening, I watched family after family plod straight past me, on their way to grill the 'serious' teachers, the core curriculum.

I had to wander around the hall soliciting interaction with parents. Even when I did, what was there to say? They've made a movie of their own, they've created storyboards, they've analysed a dvd.
"Your son's really good at drawing, and he played a corpse exceptionally well. Next year I'd like him to really put his all into fulfilling his potential in Watching TV Studies."

I feel a disloyal splitter, and a charlatan, too, for saying it, but Media Studies is So Easy. I look at the A grade portfolios sent by the exam board, and this stuff would have problems grazing a C grade in English.
If only I'd known how mickey mouse this subject could be, I'd have taken it at university, gotten myself a double first and relaxed for three years.

There, now I've offended at least one reader.

At the moment, I'm teaching textual analysis of Hitchcock's 'Psycho' (I phrase it to students as 'watching tv', but they're told to make it sound really academic to outsiders). One of the least intelligent homeworks I've ever set was asking them to find out about Ed Gein, to see who most US movie serial killers are based on.
The student teacher observing looked stricken and waved her pen around hastily: "are you sure that's a ... it might be a little adult for them ...?"
Backpedalling swiftly, I ask them to focus on uncovering facts about Gein's relationship with his mother, and to see if they can find parallels in Norman Bates' fantasy matriarch.
Student teacher is nearly puce by now, sensing the dangers.
"And don't look it up on the internet, either," I add, "there's two crime records in the library, you have to look it up in those. If you looked on the internet, heaven knows what you might find."

I'd practically advertised it by saying so.

A week later, several queasy faced students file in, visibly in shock.
"You never told us he was so sick!" "He made suits out of skin!" "Miss L, this course is weird!"

Hastily, I remind them they were told not to look on the internet. I explain the dangers of believing everything you read online, of stumbling accidentally onto fansites and image archives that present a less than objective account of events.

"Oh I didn't do that," pipes up Leo. "There's a special feature documentary on Ed Gein on a dvd I found. It was great."
Encouraged, I ask Leo to report back to the class his findings. Where did he source this hopefully learned and dry documentary?

"It's on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre dvd."

This course is so academic. So broadening.