History-Making, Academy Award-Winning Film of 2010 – How Teaching and Learning Gets Awarded Gold

It’s kind of extraordinary to make history. No, I didn’t cure cancer, create a new invention, or discover a new country/continent. Nevertheless, this weekend, I was part of something truly unique and special.

My roommate and I finally did something together that we had been romanticizing about for weeks, even months – we saw the film The King’s Speech. Let me explain . . . My roommate is very selective on film choices and even more selective on films to see in an actual theater. Why? Have you seen how much a movie ticket is these days? I don’t blame him at all.

But this weekend, the stars aligned – he had a day off from work, I taught an early morning (yet marathon three hour) class and finished at noon, and more importantly, he got paid!

On this luminous Friday afternoon, he took us out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant which was heavenly. Then we made our way to the upscale Tyson’s Corner darkened theater.

As the film unfolded, I marveled at its story, and ultimately, its heart. Being thrashed into an authoritative role as monarch when your family ridicules your flaw (and really don’t believe you REALLY are ready) while your only confidant is your spouse made me want to cry – I felt so empathetic to the Duke of York. What a lonely existence.

But like any good confidant worth his/her salt, his wife was tireless in finding help for her husband. That help ultimately came in the form of an Australian speech therapist and former theater actor Lionel Logue. Match made in heaven, right! Not exactly.

Like all men, there is this period of adjustment and testing limits of this new “arrangement.” Now throw in social titles and the period becomes more intense and awkward. How do you address royalty when you need to set up common ground to work with a student? What can you talk about when the student’s past is such a factor in recovering and he does not want to talk about it? The dance of sarcasm, humor, wit, and honesty between student and teacher built a stable bridge of trust.

But life never stays the same for long. The status quo changes and we all are left trying to adjust to the change. This change turned the Duke into the King (with his living other brother in voluntary exile with the possibility of returning to regain the throne at any time). Also, the Nazi party was on the rise and war with Germany was eminent. Talk about pressure!

So what does the new King do? Like many of us, he FREAKS OUT by assuming that he can do the job on his own and questions Logue’s credibility and credentials as a teacher (sound familiar?). The King wants to be strong for his people who is understandable but shutting down at times of stress and pressure never helps the situation. As far as Logue’s credibility, King George VI learns that Logue did not have a formal education (or a doctorate) in his field. Instead, he had real work experience working with WWI former soldiers on their PTSD that forced them to stammer their words and lose their voice. It is safe to say that Logue was no longer questioned about his effectiveness nor his credentials after that.

Their work prepared King George VI to deliver the most important speech of his reign – his radio address informing his people that Germany was going to war with England. But more importantly, the two became and remained close friends for the rest of their lives. Logue was even appointed to the King’s advisory cabinet.

And the most amazing part of it all . . . IT REALLY HAPPENED! How extraordinary! And what did Oscar do last night? Award the film with GOLD at the Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Excellence is always awarded and if there is a compelling story attached to it, the sky is the limit.

So I am honored to have been able to see such a powerful film. As an educator, it’s even more reverential because at the heart of the film is a relationship between a teacher and his student. It highlights the importance of trust in such a relationship while also challenging the student to greatness. I believe that greatness can be achieved in every student I teach. But ultimately, it’s up to the student to WANT to be great. King George VI met his destiny with the help of his teacher. I hope I can do the same.

“The homework is tedious and it was frustrating to do homework that is not graded!” –

So I came to my office  after teaching an exciting  College Composition I and ran into  a perfect storm between an instructor and her disgruntled student.

The argument began with the student saying “The homework is tedious and it was frustrating to do homework that is not graded!”  Very interesting.  And unfortunately, the instructor got sucked into the student’s questioning, offering logical explanations to her questions.  The student was not appeased at all.  She went further to discredit the instructor’s teaching ability simply because the instructor does not grade homework but only collects it and grades larger assignments such as essays. 

When the instructor tried to explain further the rationale for this practice,  the student had a temper tantrum, criticizing the class, the instructor, and the class material. 

At the aftermath, I asked the instructor why she allowed that student to talk to her in that way.  I explained that a student like that is not looking for a logical solution; he/she is looking for someone to blame and the instructor is always the target. 

She later explained to me that the student had been added after the drop/add period of spring classes which only really clarified the student’s frustration.  She was frustrated because it was too much work in a short amount of time and she was already behind a month into the semester.

The instructor still had trouble rationalizing the student’s behavior and I could only sympathize with her trouble.  I didn’t want to judge her at all.  After all, we are both in a very demanding profession where few get out alive (or even enlightened).  Is this the current state of college students for the 21st century?

What do you think?  PLEASE send me some feedback.

#FlashbackFriday #FBF: DuBois’ “Double Consciousness” – Black History Month and Beyond

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, — a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.

- W.E.B. DuBois in “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” from The Souls of Black Folk

When I was a student in college, I remember taking a class on the Harlem Renaissance where I read from an anthology of works from Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and many others. One of the writers that I remember the most was W.E.B. DuBois. My professor classified him as the first black academician in the United States at that time, gaining the first Ph.D. from Harvard University. Something struck in me about his history and ideology.

As a natural intellectual, DuBois challenged young people to raise above their circumstance to achieve greatness. While the debate between Booker T. Washington and himself was challenging (because both sides are very valuable points), I remember feeling empowered to answer that call. I knew I wanted to be MORE than my skin color, age, and gender. Whatever my career would be, I wanted to be the best – not the best BLACK FEMALE professional, but the BEST professional!

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Sometimes in class, I have to catch myself when selecting supplementary materials for my class. I tend to be unconsciously drawn to traditional black film (you probably can tell from my new pictures on my blog’s homepage) and literature. But to be the BEST, I need to diversify (and ultimately challenge) my selections, reflecting the multicultural fabric that is the American experience. In other words, there are many other people besides white and black, right?

oprah-winfrey

However, the concept of assimilation into a dominant culture is not new; it is an experience that is shared by people of many different genders, sexual orientations, cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. So how can I as an instructor tap into this issue without being superficial in my exploration through literature? Embrace the diversity!

Literature by nature is based on personal experience and who would say that this experience is uniform?! No way! Just as we all have different connotations what love is, we have equally varied interpretations of literature and storytelling.

Michelle Obama And Tom Vilsack Discuss New USDA Nutrition Standards For School Lunches

So I will embrace “double consciousness” and expand it to reach every student in each of my classes. Let’s see how this works!

“What I Know For Sure” – Oprah’s Top 20 Things

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/The-Top-20-Things-Oprah-Knows-for-Sure

For me, I feel very connected to many of Oprah’s “things,” ranging from being in a profession I love (college teaching), trusting my instincts in every facet of my life, failure being “a signpost to turn you into another direction” (I wish I knew that when I started college!) and being still to find the solution to a problem when you don’t know it immediately. 

But I want to know what my readers think!! This is your opportunity to respond to me for a change.

Please read her list and comment on any of the “things” that resonate with you.  BE HONEST!

Oprah's MasterClass

#ThrowbackThursday #TBT: A Black Sheep is the Manifestation of A Family’s Tensions Embodied Within One Person: Gaining Insight to My New Role

Laurean D. Robinson, MA

Founder, Editor, Writer of “The Student Becomes The Teacher”

So forgive me for not writing sooner. This week was exceptionally difficult and I was running on very little sleep all week (NOT a good thing).

But in welcoming the weekend, a 70-ish degree spring day (THANK GOD), and my first paycheck at my new college, I am able to get the peace of mind and clarity I need to see my experience as a journey. It also helped to see Friday’s Oprah Winfrey Show.

Today’s show was about a mother who was dealing with a young son who flew in the fits of unprovoked rage, injuring himself and creating terror within his own parents and little sister within their own home. Later, it was discovered that he was suffering from mental illness and was sent to a mental institution that specializes in his condition.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Children-Dealing-with-Violent-Rage

What was truly insightful for me was the mother’s explanation of a “black sheep.” She explained that a black sheep in a family is only the manifestation of a family’s tensions/sins/ugly problems embodied with a real person. She said that her son was a “black sheep” based on this definition. That was why it was so important to discuss family issues/secrets/uncomfortable topics.

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While I don’t believe that my roommate is mentally ill, I do believe that the frustration he feels is real and needs to be addressed. I also understand that he needs to be embraced and his issues need to be addressed. That will come in the form of joint counseling once a week. That way he has a “safe space” where we can tackle the complicated history that we both share.

Sometimes, we can act out as a call for help. We all want to be “saved” even if we don’t say it directly. I am here for a reason – to help my roommate get through this rough patch and be the support he has lacked. For me, this is a live test, challenging my patience and tolerance – all the areas that I prayed to God for more of. Now I have a reason to fortify these qualities. So just as I am helping him, he is helping me. What a blessing!

Starring Janet Jackson & the late Tupac Shakur

Starring Janet Jackson & the late Tupac Shakur

So as I watch the latest developments of the Santa Barbara massacre involving the 22-year-old college student Elliot Rodger, I reflect back on that show. It makes me wonder what secrets had been hidden in that family household and were swept under the rug for years. Did Elliot REALLY have the help he needed? Did his parents REALLY do all they could do for their child? Did the mental health professionals REALLY do all they could do for their client? These are questions I hope get answered soon so that this tragedy stops repeating itself over and over again.