This is Why I Teach

Developmental Writing Tip: This is Why I Teach

Right on cue, my students have gone and done something awesome to remind me why I teach. They apparently anticipated yesterday’s post, making it a good week to return to my teaching theme.

You might remember last semester when I wrote about a new teaching experiment I called “Film as Composition.” It was brand new to me then and it went great, so I used it again this semester. If you’re curious, you should read the post, but the basic idea is my students would work in groups to write, film, and edit a short film. The project required that they create a multimodal interpretation of one of the readings—poem, short story, or play. I hold the belief that this teaches them to think about traditional elements of composition (thesis, transitions, introductions, conclusions, etc.) in a whole different way, which is part of the reason why I teach it.¬†Beyond that, they get to add dynamic elements like lighting, sound, and camera angles to their interpretations, or arguments.

At any rate, we’re at that point in the semester again, and this week we have been screening our shorts in class. Just like last semester, I was completely blown away by some of the films. Just some really great modern interpretations of classic works of literature. Although they were all great, I’m going to share with you one with which I was particularly impressed.

This group chose a surprising poem as the basis for their interpretation: Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” which we discussed on the first day of class as a way of entering the world of poetic analysis. This first assignment is really important in my mind, but the group surprised me by choosing it for the project.

In the drafting stage, each group is required to submit a proposal to me before they begin filming. The Pitch. In this group’s pitch they explained to me the plan was to combine a series of brief clips. Each member would film separately multiple short scenes in which they saw “beauty,” and then they would combine the results. The idea was to represent the adage claiming that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and to argue that beauty often exists in simplicity, just as Pound’s poem suggests. The result is incredible. That’s about all I can say. It’s hard to believe the scenes were captured serendipitously in a weekend. The editing, too, is impeccable (it’s filmed on iPhone and edited with iMovie). Watch and see. This, my friends, is why I teach.

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.