Throwback Thursday: Oh Captain! My Captain!, originally posted on May 28, 2017, makes a quick connection between my youth and my adulthood. The common factor: ‘Dead Poets Society,’ or the go-to video the English teacher in high school put on when he didn’t want to teach/was too hungover to teach.
Really, though, teachers should not miss their chance to have a ‘Dead Poets Society’ moment with their students. That’s the kind of stuff that matters.
I’ve mentioned before that after Robin Williams’s passing, I watched Dead Poets Society with my wife and let out a good cry. That viewing allowed me to rediscover my protagonist and ultimately inspired the prologue of Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up.
I recently had my DPS moment with my seventh grade students. When we started discussing Walt Whitman and I mentioned “Oh Captain! My Captain!” a handful of my students astutely commented that they recognized the poem from Williams’ portrayal of John Keating.
After showing them a clip from the film (not the entire movie, for everyone knows it’s the cliche substitute/hungover English teacher go-to), they begged and pleaded to stand on their desks and belt out the poem.
So, with Whitman’s poem on the SmartBoard, we all rose up onto our chairs (not desks, for I was too worried about one breaking and impaling a student). Boy, did that classroom roar that day with youthful exuberance, with passion, with pride, with meaning. It would have been a great picture/video opportunity if I believed it appropriate to do as apparently many other teachers do.
Students across all of my classes (6, 7, & 9) have exhibited unexpected skill along with an equally as surprising dedication to producing quality poems well-above their grades. While I do not believe in chronicling my interactions with my students in multimedia, as their champion, as their most ardent supporters, I will be sharing an anonymous student poem each week to commend their efforts.
When the student makes good on his/her promise, this is the validation of what the teacher does.