Sunday, July 8, 2012

Monsieur Lazhar (recommended film)

www.musicboxfilms.com

Have you seen the previews for this feel-good movie about an Algerian immigrant in Montreal who helps a class heal after the suicide of their teacher?  The one where the students start out resentful but by the end of the year are smiling in their class photo while saying their teacher’s name, Bashir?

It’s really interesting how misleading a preview can be.  You just need to take a small sampling of scenes and change the order, and you’ve created a whole new storyline.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Monsieur Lazhar is a wonderful movie.  It should probably be required viewing for all teachers.  But it’s more heart-breaking than heart-warming.  We never find out the true reason for Martine’s suicide, or why she chose to hang herself in her classroom.  Bashir himself, while well intentioned and even admirable in some ways, hasn’t been entirely honest about his background, which has serious repercussions. 

I’d love to show this movie in a teacher training setting.  Bashir Lazhar’s traditional methods are contrasted with his predecessor and colleagues, but in a nonjudgmental way, and he watches other teachers to learn from them.  He also does his best to help the kids cope with their conflicted feelings about Martine.

It’s not important whether a teacher’s called “Mr. So and So” or by his first name, or whether the desks are arranged in straight lines or a semicircle.  It is important to establish a routine with the students, a variety of challenging activities, an environment where they feel safe, and a way to handle crises.

There isn’t always an easy answer.  There isn’t always a right answer.  There may never be an answer.  Sometimes all we can do is support our students while they learn to ask the questions.

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Arranged (recommended film)



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