Last year, I wrote a post about what Frozen taught me about the Common Core. As I watched Mad Max: Fury Road this weekend, I started to reflect. Much of my reflection was about the dialogue on the movie’s feminist storyline. But, I also used the movie as a lens to reflect on my current teaching practice. This is something that I like to do often because movies, songs, books, and popular culture are often a lens that can be used to spur conversation with students. These pop culture texts lend themselves to helping students see how the texts around them are not just for literary merit or fact gathering. These texts ultimately help us discover more about ourselves.
So, I give you: what Mad Max: Fury Road taught me about Common Core. Spoiler Alert: I will talk about plot points of the movie in order to illustrate my points!
One person can’t hold all the resources.
Mad Max: Fury Road has a pretty basic plot that centers on the conflict of Immortan Joe and his control of resources, namely water and women that he keeps as “breeders”. That’s a problem. That’s the type of problem that leads to a revolution, or at least an uprising. When it comes to Common Core, there needs to be a willingness to talk openly, share openly, and examine the work and standards. District alone cannot mandate what should or shouldn’t happen now that standards have changed. Nor should sole departments be responsible for learning and teaching the new standards. This became readily apparent on my initial encounters with the Performance Task on the High School English SBA tests. Both given to my school were science based (at least the classroom activity part, which is the only part I can see as a teacher), which was a little bit odd for some of my English teachers to teach. At the high school level, the students either get argumentative or explanatory writing with 4-5 sources (including graphs), which lends itself more to the Social Studies and Science curriculum than the literary studies of an English class. When your department, building, district talks about meeting English and Math standards, does it truly involve all the departments in a building?
The end destination will not always be the end. Sometimes you have to go back to where you started.
As to be expected, the plot couldn’t let our main characters off the hook without a full battle with Immortan Joe and his War Boys. While the original plan was to leave the Citadel for the Land of Many Mothers, that land has become a desert like all other places. So, they set back for Citadel, back into the chaos and war. This, too, is how organizations must react in the educational world that we have inherited. We muddle through the work with our students (hopefully not losing some along the way like Furiosa) and at last coming to a safe place. A place of rest. Though not always the ideal location, it feels like progress and the chaotic war path behind us is not a place we want to return. But, like Mad Max and Furiosa determine, we can’t always avoid the fight. To get better and meet our students, we sometimes have to weed back into the confusion and tweaking of our understanding in order to survive.
You need to find a way to balance the crazy and frenetic nature of “NEW”.
If you haven’t seen Mad Max, viewing 10 seconds of clip above gives you a sense of how the majority of the film feels. My sister-in-law actually checked her fitbit after the movie to see how her heart rate elevated during the movie. I would hope that this elevated heart rate is not still how you’re feeling when it comes to the standards. Perhaps, it’s how you feel when it comes to the summative test, the SBA, which is still new to most of it. Having helped set-up, troubleshoot, and make-up SBA testing for the last two months, I can attest to the varied comfort of teachers with just this aspect of the Common Core. Sometimes, the anxiety of newness was palpable in a room. As institutions, we need to do better to balance the newness with a feeling of confidence and ease. As teachers, it’s important that we find a way to balance our lives. This is applicable, obviously, in all aspects of our lives.
Even lone wolves need to join a pack, sometimes.
Mad Max, after capture, finds himself joined with a group that is led by Furiosa. At multiple points, Max has the opportunity to leave the group and set back out on his own. Though he ultimately returns to his lone wolf status, once they return to the Citadel, Max realizes that sometimes he doesn’t need to go it alone. The fact is that we all need to help or join a group whether to help ourselves, help others, or there just isn’t any other way about it. Reflecting on your last year in the classroom, how often did you play the role of lone wolf? How many of those times, could you, or a colleague, have benefitted from collaborating as a group? As a self-confessed lone wolf, I know I could do better to collaborate.