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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Racing Cars and Sleeping Cars

We have two weeks and three days left in the 2011-2012 school term.  With all of the tests finished, I can now turn to teaching lessons not on the test.

I am using, presently, two films for my 11th and 12th grade classes.  Part of this comes from a need to keep my students engaged in their lessons.  They live in a world of visual media: television, movies, videos, on-line material, so I want to make use of visual media in their lessons. I also want them to become active viewers just as I wish them to become active readers.  I have chosen two films: the Pixar animated film Cars for the juniors and the film 10,000 Black Men Named George for the seniors.

Mater and Lightning McQueen from Cars
In Cars, I am emphasizing the way the film tells an old story, the Hero's journey.  Just like the ancient bards telling of the "wrath of Achilles", the cartoon tells of a young hero, Lightning McQueen, who gets out of his element when he winds up in Radiator Springs on his way to a big stock car race.  While there, McQueen learns the lessons in himself and in his life that he needs to learn before he is able to return to his familiar world. 

10,000 Black Men Named George is an historical film about Asa Philip Randolph's successful organization of the porters and maids who worked for Pullman railroad car company.  The workers were nearly all African-Americans, as was Randolph, so this was the first largely all black labor union.  I am wanting to show my students how African-American history goes far beyond Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, and Rev. Al Sharpton, as important as those individuals are to the Civil Rights movement.  In fact, it was Randolph who, with Bayard Rustin, organized the "March on Washington" where Dr. King delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech. 

My objective for the senior is to get them thinking how justice in the work place is a major component in the struggle for civil rights and justice in America. They will soon be a part of this struggle as they take up their careers.

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