Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Das Leben der Anderen

A popular question that runners get from non runners is: what do you think about when you're running for so long?  Recently, more often than not, the answer is this: I think about German. I describe the situations around me in German, I plan the trip to Germany I hope to take this summer, and I never stop wondering how I can get my students to get better at this language. With a new position this year comes questioning and self doubt, and I can't stop thinking about what I could be doing better.

Lately I've been focusing on this film:

"The Lives of Others," the German film that won the 2006 Oscar for foreign language film, about the East German State Security that spied on its own citizens for decades.  It's a brilliant, moody, haunting film, filled with subtlety, history, redemption, and dynamic characters.  My AP class has spent a lot of time discussing the Cold War and the relationship between East and West Germany, and this film fits perfectly into that discussion.  Why then, was I so reluctant to show this film to my class?

My love for this film is a result of a built in background going into it.  I used to live in the former East Berlin.  I've taken college classes on East and West German relations.  I've been to countless museum exhibits, seen countless other films on the subject, and talked to countless East Germans about their former lives.  There is an appreciation and understanding for the subject matter that my teenage students simply don't possess.  The film is long and slow moving, and I was afraid of the epic eye rolling that would occur when their parents asked what they did in German class that day.

So what made me decide to show the film this week?  Believe it or not, it all comes back to Boston: it's about the expectations.  There was a time I was positive that I could never qualify for Boston. Instead of giving in to this, I merely set my expectations higher and decided to meet them.  This is what should be done as an educator as well.  If I set my expectations high, my students will, in theory, rise to meet them. If I give in to the stereotype that teenagers are lazy and dumb and not capable of mature emotions and thought, I'm doing everyone involved a disservice.  If I believe, on the other hand, that teenagers are capable of deep and powerful thought but just lack the power of articulation that one acquires with age, then I am headed in the right direction.  My expectations may not always be met, but the effort will be there, just like the road to Boston.

1 comment:

  1. I bet you're an awesome teacher! My own experiences in college were that I seemed more interested and involved in those classes where the teacher had a passion for the subject and fully expected us to live up to higher goals and maybe develop the same passion. You can't NOT be interested when someone is telling you about something they love. The enthusiasm rubs off!

    My long runs aren't as long as yours, but I tend to think of writing and stories I'm working on...when I'm not thinking about maybe passing out or dying right there on the sidewalk! ;)


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