Similar to my previous post, there are several pieces of media that have influenced my thinking as a person and which certainly will have an influence on the way I teach along with what I teach. As before, while there is a countless number of things I could include in this list right now, I will limit it to a modest three.
My first recommendation is Janelle Monae’s excellent album The ArchAndroid. Monae is a self described weirdo who makes music that is as eclectic as her own unique personality. The inspiration for her album came from the classic 1920s silent film Metropolis about an android created by an evil scientists to enslave the working class of a modern city. Monae has turned this idea in on itself and has made the android a messiah who will bring peace and unity to the disparate population of her imagined world. Her songs focus on this theme and remind the listener to hope for a better world where we can all live in understanding. Certainly this is a good lesson to take into the middle school classroom. Below is a video of a single from the album entitled “Cold War.”
I would also recommend Peter Matthiessen’s wonderful travel log The Snow Leopard. Winner of the National Book Award in 1979, The Snow Leopard chronicles Matthiessen’s trek into the Himalayan Mountains to study blue mountain sheep and visit the Buddhist monastery, Crystal Lake.
While on his journey Matthiessen muses about life, spiritualism, nature, and man’s place in the universe while always keeping aware of the ever changing and destructive habits of man. Writing with a clairvoyance and joy that few writers are able to mimic, Matthiessen, takes the reader on a journey both physically and spiritually that will leave them with a lasting impact. This type of writing and close observation of the world is something I try to mimic in my everyday life and it is my hope that it will infuse my lessons with a deeper meaning to each of my students.
Lastly, I would like to suggest to everyone that they watch Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Rashomon, a classic of Japanese cinema. Set in feudal Japan, Rashomon recounts the murder of a newly wed samurai and the suicide of his bride. Told from three perspectives, that of the samurai, his wife, and the bandit who supposedly instigated the incident, this film delves into the question of what is truth and what can be believed. From each narrator the viewer sees the events of that fateful day unfold in a similar yet distinctly different way that proves sometimes the truth of a situation will never be uncovered. This movie is important to me as an educator because it reminds me to keep my mind fluid and not settle into preconceived notions. The ability to learn and process new information requires a certain elasticity of thought and I will only serve my students all the better by remembering to keep my mind limber.