Movies in school

Since when has it become acceptable for a teacher to outsource teaching to Hollywood?

Hayley comes home from school quite often saying "We're watching a movie in (some class of hers)."  This past week it was the movie "Volcano" for science. I also seem to remember her watching "Dante's Peak" in science too. I asked her what she was supposed to be learning by watching "Volcano" and her response was "how the movie is wrong about volcanoes."

Forehead smack. On the teacher's forehead. Now don't get me wrong, I know teachers have a difficult time teaching these days, especially given that many kids come to school with a chips solidly planted on their shoulders, and with attitudes of "you'd better entertain me or I'm not going to listen." But surely there is a way to teach what a volcano is or isn't that doesn't involve three or four class periods of students staring at a movie screen.

I also question the time spent--2 hours--to teach two things that Hollywood got wrong about volcanos. Surely that could be taken care of in a matter of minutes.

Jim and I just watched "2012" and I cringe to think of that ever being used to teach the science of solar flares. There was very little in the way of useful information about solar flares, and quite a bit of information on how to be a crazy person in Yellowstone, and much time was spent on showing that anyone who has a pilot's license can fly any kind of plane including a ginormous Russian transport airship, and in any condition, including the collapse of the Western seaboard. And there was a person ground up in giant gears that I could have done without seeing.  Plus there were numerous scenes of people outrunning explosions, which annoys me to no end. People canNOT outrun explosions, they cannot outdrive them, or even outfly them.

I don't mind if they watch episodes of "Planet Earth", "Bill Nye the Science Guy", any National Geographic special, Mythbusters (which Paul says they've watched in Physics) or even shows like "Hoarders" (which Paul says they've watched in Abnormal Psych class), or Masterpiece Theater for some of the Lit classics, but I am not at all in favor of Hollywood teaching science, relationships, English, literature classics, or even history (because they seem to add a lot of fiction in with their history, and most of the time, it's history from a certain perspective). It seems like a lot of class time wasted on an easy out for the teachers. And Hollywood teaching science? It's all sensationalism and questionable science. I'd rather the kids go outside and pick dandelions or sift dirt through their fingers.

I have also heard my kids tell me that they watched Disney movies in Spanish. Either in English with Spanish subtitles (in that case, are they really paying attention to the subtitles?) or in Spanish with English subtitles (which doesn't seem the most efficient way of learning Spanish).

Jenni, I would be interested in your perspective on this. I know you have done movies in class. Tell me your take on this.

I ought to write down all the times my kids watch movies in class (that they tell me) just to see how often it's happening. Once in a while I guess as a treat it would be ok, but I've heard reports of movie watching way more than I thought was necessary.


Jen said…
Don't get me started. I couldn't agree more that there are far more creative ways to teach students. I realize that there aren't really movies about math, but even if there were I never would have resorted to using them to eat up time on my class. As it was I always felt like there wasn't enough time to squeeze in all the curriculum put before me. I realize that history, literature, and possibly science could use movies as a teaching tool. However, I really feel it should be a once a year thing as a special treat. I personally feel that if I see a movie based on a book I've read, I'm usually disappointed by the movie. And I do agree that kids these days are so plugged into getting entertained in every part of their lives, so schools should be trying to break that frame of mind instead of feeding it.

And Disney movies in Spanish class. You're kidding, right?
Mike said…
No, teachers don't 'have it hard these days..' Teaching is the only occupation fraught with great public whinning about 'how hard the job is' and 'you try and teach these kids all day...' If it's so hard...DONT TEACH! Showing movies in class is unaccepatable. Class is class, especially science where there is so much material to cover. Ugh, sigh, bemoan, etc. I hope that in our district where the week is compressed into four days, all that crap gets salted out just cause there is no time for it.
A Very Concerned Citizen
Jenni said…
So, to show a movie in class...My students only watch a few movies each year. I don't have time to "show the movie" for every piece of lit we read. I do show some. Right now, we just finished reading "The Great Gatsby" and now we are watching the 1970's version with Robert Redford. One of the problems my students face is their learning disabilities and some are very visual. Reading a novel is an overwhelming task and they hardly understand it. However, using a visual representation helps them along. In some cases, we discuss the actors/actresses chosen and give suggestions who would be better (you need to have a reason other than "because she is hot.") We read exerpts of "Moby Dick" and "Gulliver's Travels" and then watch those movies. Reading the entire book is an impossibility. I don't have the time to watch anything extra. Sorry folks, most of the time, I am the entertainment in my class. I have even been accused of making the class do work every day. How dare I?

I know there are days (usually during testing with 1/4 of the class is gone all week) where some teachers show movies and the kids get tired of it.

As for foreign language using Disney movies, I think it is ok ONLY if you do not have any English sound or subtitles. It can be helpful, but must be done right.

That is my 2 cents.