Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Imagine if the Best Picture Nominees Were About Teaching

January 14, 2020





“Ford v Ferrari” – An expose about what car a successful teacher can afford compared to a successful YouTube makeup vlogger
“The Irishman” – An Irish teacher’s anti-ageing efforts are undone by the fact that he is a Primary school teacher.
“Jojo Rabbit” – A horror film about the accidental murder of a beloved class pet at the hands of an errant crayon.
“Joker” – A dark psychological portrait about the slow, psychotic disintegration of an unloved and self-destructive Minister of Education.
“Little Women” – A sci-fi set in a utopian world where girls are encouraged to do STEM subjects.
“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” – The story of a teacher who wishes he had a stunt double to negotiate the pushing and shoving in a narrow school corridor.
“Marriage Story” – A searing drama about the relationship breakdown of an educator and her Assistant Principal after the tumult of a nasty parent email.
“Parasite” – A biographical film about the person who invented standardized testing.
“1917” – An examination of the last year teachers got a pay rise.

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

A Marriage Story: Brilliant, Yet Bleak

January 10, 2020


I have long been arguing that we have taken the toll of divorce on children for granted (a theme central to my novel, “My Favourite Comedian”). Many claim that since it is so commonplace, divorce is less a tragic occurrence and more a reality of life. If most children have to go through it, it can’t be that bad, right?

I don’t subscribe to that theory. In fact, whilst there are often very good reasons for divorce and in many cases, the children are arguably better off, the effects of a family break down is as difficult for children now as it has ever been.

Enter Netflix’s masterpiece, A Marriage Story. A movie that couldn’t even spare one scene depicting the perspective of a child in the midst of a giant tug-of-war over rights to his upbringing. Not one!

This film is far more interested in the thoughts and needs of his parents. Parents who are decent people on the surface, but who have been racked with self-interest and continue to be. One had an affair, the other basically got bored and was feeling unimportant. Bad decisions were being made on both sides, with the power divested in terribly immoral lawyers continuing the trend of decisions made with self-interest trumping what is really best for the child.

The movie is quite brilliant. It captures the end of a marriage with great insight and the acting is brilliant. It is also a stark essay on the selfishness of the contemporary person.

Selfishness that I would argue does nothing for the child and his development.


Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

The Real “Mean Girls”

July 3, 2014



It is of no surprise that the 2004 Hollywood movie, Mean Girls, went on to become a major hit. It clearly struck a raw nerve with teens and adults alike. Ask any female adult whether mean girls haunted their school corridors and infiltrated their classrooms and cafeterias, the answer will invariably be, “Unfortunately, yes.”

The problem with the movie, in real terms, is that it offered stereotypical characters and no solutions. For a film that so many could relate to, it was disappointing that it had precious little of substance. Good for a laugh and perceptive at times, but not much an impressionable child could take from it. It is of no coincidence that a student in my school followed the lead of the villain rather than the heroine and compiled a “Burn Book” (a notebook filled with rumors, secrets, and gossip about the other girls and some teachers), just like the one featured in the film.

Enter Mike Feurstein!

For those of you who don’t know, I have been a huge advocate of Mike’s from his first groundbreaking anti-bullying film, How to UnMake a Bully, onwards. He has since made 5 other anti-bullying movies, making him one of, if not the most, prominent figure in this genre. His films are able to expertly get to the heart of everyday social and emotional challenges met by a great many children, and quite brilliantly assist in providing advise and sound methodology without coming across preachy or tacky.

I have since been able to work with him personally, and have seen how he bases his narrative on the experiences of his cast and involves them in all aspects of the film making process such as  lighting and sound.

In this, the 6th entry into the UnMake series, he gets to the heart of the Mean Girls experience and offers a great platform for its young viewers to reflect on their attitudes and behaviours as well as motivating them to consider a positive approach to dealing with this issue. It’s comparisons of the erosion of friendships to that of the earth is a masterstroke!

I recommend this film strongly to teachers and parents:


Click on the link to read Anti-Bullying Song Goes Viral

Click on the link to read Some Schools Just Don’t Get it When it Comes to Bullying

Click on the link to read The Bystander Experiment (Video)

Click on the link to read Tips for Managing Workplace Bullying

Click on the link to read 12,000 Students a Year Change Schools Due to Bullying

Click on the link to read The Devastating Effects of Bullying (Video)

Click on the link to read Sickening Video of Girl Being Bullied for Having Ginger Hair

The Teacher Than Inspired Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann

May 26, 2013


I love stories about inspiring teachers. What makes this teacher’s story so special is that she inspired one of my countries most loved and respected filmmakers:

FILM director Baz Luhrmann’s career could have turned out very differently had it not been for his English teacher at Narrabeen High School.

Lorraine Bowan took Mark Anthony “Baz” Luhrmann to his first Shakespeare play.

And when Luhrmann prepared for his first audition for the National Institute of Dramatic at the age of 18, she helped him. But, most importantly, Ms Bowan brought him back to class when he dropped out of school in Year 11 to work in a Mona Vale shop.

She was doing the morning roll and when she realised Luhrmann was not in class, a student told her he had quit school to take up work at a shop.

“Straight after school I drove up to Mona Vale to find him and said, ‘Mark, what the hell are you doing? Make sure you’re back in class tomorrow’,” she said.

While Ms Bowan later forgot about the episode, Luhrmann recounted it up in front of all the guests at a party she attended at his Darlinghurst home about 10 years ago.

“He said ‘you’re responsible for what I’m doing now’,” she said.

“It’s very nice that he remembers me in that way.”


Click on the link to read Proof that Teachers Care

Click on the link to read The Short Video You MUST Watch!

Click on the link to read Is There a Greater Tragedy than a School Tragedy?

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Meet the Armless Math Teacher

Click on the link to read The Case of a Teacher Suspended for Showing Integrity


Oscar Special: Teaching Film Literacy in the Classroom

February 25, 2013



I love film and take much pleasure in teaching my students a subject called Movie Comprehension.

Courtesy of, the following is a list of resources for teaching film literacy in the classroom:


  • Teaching for Visual Literacy: 50 Great Young Adult Films: Authors Alan B. Teasley and Ann Wilder share tips for using film as a classroom tool, and include an extensive list of films that are perfect for young adults, focusing on lesser-known flicks, classic films, and movies that students have not likely seen.


  • Oscar-Nominated Flicks for Families: Common Sense Media produced this list of reviews of 2013’s Oscar-nominated films for the whole family. Included are reviews for animated films, Brave and Frankenweenie, and films based on historial events, Lincoln and Argo.



  • 12 Basic Ways to Teach Media Literacy (PDF): This guide from Ithaca College is a great beginners resource for teaching media and film literacy. The tips included by authors Cyndy Scheibe and Faith Rogow are a great kickstarter for any media literacy unit, including suggestions for stimulating student interest in new topics and encouraging students to think about how media messages influence them.



And while we are on the Oscar theme, here is my all time favourite Oscar clip from my childhood. Enjoy!


Click on the link to read Could This be the Most Violent High School Test Question Ever?

Click on the link to read Six Valuable Steps to Making Positive Changes in Your Teaching

Click on the link to read 10 Art Related Games for the Classroom

Click on the link to read 5 Rules for Rewarding Students

Click on the link to read Tips for Engaging the Struggling Learner

Click on the link to read the Phonics debate.

Just Wait a Minute! This isn’t Madagascar!

October 24, 2012

What an unfortunate mistake! Not only was the wrong reel put in the projector, but the film which was supposed to be an animated family entertainment, instead became the scariest film of the year.

Parents have told how their children were left ‘scarred for life’ after cinema staff put on a horror film instead of a cartoon comedy.

There was panic in a Saturday-morning screening when 15-rated supernatural thriller Paranormal Activity 4 started playing instead of PG family movie Madagascar 3.

Youngsters reacted in horror as a ‘flashback’ scene from the original Paranormal Activity showed a bloodied corpse being hurled at the camera.

Around 25 families at the Cineworld cinema in Nottingham scrambled for the exits with their crying children – some as young as five – when the film started.Natasha Lewis, 32, had taken her eight-year-old son Dylan to see the film.The full-time mother, from Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘Dylan wanted to see the new Madagascar film as he’s seen the others and they’re his favourite. He was really looking forward to it.

‘We sat down and it was meant to start at 10am, but it took until 10.30am for the lights to go down and for the trailers to start.

‘They started playing the movie and I thought – this doesn’t look right. And then I recognised the opening sequence as a flashback to the first movie, which I saw a couple of years ago.

‘It opens on the most terrifying scene in the first film – where a body shoots full pelt towards the camera.

‘It’s enough to make grown men jump, so you can imagine the terror in these young faces.

‘Everybody just scrambled for the exits, all you could hear were children crying and screaming. Everyone was very upset.

‘I’ve watched a few horror films in my time but the Paranormal Activity films are the scariest since the Exorcist.

‘It was only about two minutes worth of the film but it was enough to scar them for life.

‘There were parents and kids in there, including some children who were younger than Dylan.

‘The cinema needs to check the film before sending everyone in so they don’t make this mistake again.

Our Children and the Disgusting Climate of Fear

March 6, 2012

I love my job but if the Government ever forces me to scare my students in the name of “science” I will plainly refuse. I would sooner lose my job than transfer the negatively geared, sensationalistic, propaganda, intended at frightening children into believing that the world is going to go to bits because of man-made global warming.

I am more than happy to help motivate my students to care for their environment and reduce their own carbon footprints – this is a positive message. However, the Government, United Nations and various scientific agencies have no interest in positive messages. Their game is to fill our young impressionable children with fear and dread. These people believe that a nightmare in the name of science makes the experience worthwhile.

Just watch this advertisement below. This is no underground commercial. This was played at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. It is absolutely appalling! It has as much scientific value as a mound of cow turd! How dare they use children like that. What manipulative cowards they are! Who needs to communicate truths when you can terrorise children?

Anthony Sharwood is right in his assessment of this advertisement and the message we our sending our impressionable young:

One of the worst things I’ve seen in ages was the Copenhagen Climate Summit opening film, where a small child has terrible, apocalyptic nightmares after learning about human-induced climate change.

He is also correct in offering a much more palatable alternative in teaching the challenges of conserving our environment.

My six year old daughter has been learning about Earth Hour at school. Want to know how to really inspire her and others like her to save the world? Get them to love it, not fear it. Allow them to develop their own sense of environmental responsibility, rather than indoctrinating them to feel part of a “problem”.

I’m not a perfect parent. If anyone has an IKEA-style parenthood manual complete with helpful Swedish pictograms, please loan it to me. But one piece of parenting I think I’ve gotten right is instilling a deep love of nature in both my kids.

Together, we’ve bushwalked, skied and swum in some of Australia’s most beautiful locations. We’ve thrown summer snowballs on a New Zealand volcano and caught (and then released) tadpoles in a clear, Blue Mountains stream.

At home, I teach my kids about clouds and the wind direction, and always Google the birds that alight on our backyard trees, so that we can observe their habits armed with a few facts. How many city kids do you know that tell the difference between a white cockatoo and a Corella?

One day, I hope my daughter becomes an environmental scientist or activist who helps save the world. More likely, she’ll live a regular life with a regular job, and that’ll be fine too. Either way, I’m sure she’ll choose to pursue a lifestyle of modest consumption and environmental light-stepping.

If ever called on to teach this subject in such a negative way I will flatly refuse. If they force an educational pack on me I will immediately throw it in the bin (recycle bin, of course).

One wonders why those investing time into spreading the message about our carbon footprint consistently put their foot in it.

Eight Tips for Teaching Shy Children

January 11, 2012

I once taught a child that refused to talk. He was already in fourth grade by the time I had him and some of his previous teachers had told me that they hardly recall a time when they heard the sound of his voice. No matter what I tried, nothing was working. By the end of Term 1 I was beginning to doubt I could do anything for him.

Then it hit me. It was a long shot, but I couldn’t think of anything else so it was worth a try. The boy reminded me of Harpo from the Marx Brothers. Not only didn’t he talk, but he had the same facial features and a similar haircut. I decided to show the class my favourite Marx Brothers movie, Duck Soup, and dedicate the screening to this student that refused to talk. I mentioned how Harpo Marx is cool and so is this student who happens to share a resemblance.

I figured that instead of trying to get him to talk and making his silence a negative, I would celebrate it and cannonise it. The class loved the Marx Brothers and particularly enjoyed Harpo Marx. In fact, no one loved it more than this particular child, who would mimic Harpo, get his parents to order the Marx Brother’s DVD’s and yes, the positive attention from peers in particular made him start to talk!

I recently stumbled on a valuable website that deals with helping parents and educators deal with shy children. The website is called and it features some useful tips. By following the link provided, the tips below are explained in more detail.

  1. Normalize shyness and depict it in a positive light.
  2. Make regular contact.
  3. Give shy children a job to do.
  4. Comment on their successes and post their work.
  5. Help Children Learn To Initiate Contact With Others.
  6. Educate Parents.
  7. Reward Small Improvements
  8. Keep an eye out for teasing

It turns out that he was just waiting for somebody to at least attempt to understand him. He didn’t want people to try to change him, he wanted people to appreciate him for who he was.

Later that year, this very child performed in the school concert. Thank you Harpo!

The Education Version of “Moneyball”

December 23, 2011

The continued debate between private and public school funding tires me out. I am a big believer of a well-funded (i.e. wisely funded) public school sector as well as a thriving private school sector. There is no reason why parents can’t be given choice and why supporting private schools must come at the expense of quality public education.

This is where the “Moneyball” analogy fits in.

Moneyball is the true story of Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. Oakland is severly restricted due to the lowest salary constraints in baseball. Winning means beating teams with much better infrastructure and player payment capacities. Billy is presented with the unenviable task of finding a winning team with the miniscule budget offered. Together with a Harvard economics major, a system is devised that uses statistical data to analyse and value players they pick for the team.

Public schools need to take the same approach. Just like the big baseball teams of the time, plenty of money is spent on public schools, but much of it is wasted money. I look at education in a very traditional way. Whilst it is ideal to have the best sporting fields, technologies and building designs, none of these ingredients has been proven to be essential for teaching and learning the curriculum. The school across the road may be able to give each child their own i-Pad, but that shouldn’t explain a marked difference in maths, science or english results. A teacher should be able to deliver on the curriculum with or without such devices.

Whilst many get worked up when Governments subsidise private schools, there is a good reason why they do it.

1. It takes billions off the budget bottom line. This saves Governments money, resulting in reduced taxes and smaller class sizes in public schools.

2. It allows private schools to lower their fees. This is crucial for parents who are by no means wealthy, but are prepared to scrimp and save (and sometimes take on multiple jobs and a second mortgage) to get their children into private schools. These people should be commended. They work long hours, weekends, give up overseas travel and big screen TV’s, just to give their kids the best education possible. Government subsidies allow that to happen.

In Australia, the Government gives $13,000 to every public school per student. Private schools get $5,000. Factor in to the equation that many private schools are not elite schools with truck loads of money and resources (I work in such a private school, where I earn considerably less than a public school teacher), and you realise that the subsidy shouldn’t detract from a thriving public education system.

By constantly drawing attention to private schools, we risk bringing the private school system down to the public level. What we should be doing instead is trying to get the public school system improved to the level where it gives its private school equivalent a run for its money. That way, you have a private school that sets the bar for top quality education and a public school system that is structured to be able to go toe-to-toe with them based on prudent spending, good decision-making and a workforce of supported and fairly paid teachers.

Is Bribing a Worthwhile Teaching Method?

December 15, 2011

I am not a fan of bribing. Even though such a practice usually has some positive effects, I think the students can see right through it. It paints the teacher as desperate and devalues skills that should be developed without the incentive offered.

In 1995, the classroom drama Dangerous Minds became a box-office hit. It depicted a former marine played by Michelle Pfeiffer struggling to control a class full of stereotypical lower class misfits. Her plan, neither ingenious nor responsible was to bribe them. Some may have left the cinema hailing her as a genius. I thought it was lazy scriptwriting and left us with no realistic answers for our own classroom management issues.

A recent study seems to come to a different conclusion on the bribing issue:

If your preschoolers turn up their noses at carrots or celery, a small reward like a sticker for taking even a taste may help get them to eat previously shunned foods, a UK study said.

Though it might seem obvious that a reward could tempt young children to eat their vegetables, the idea is actually controversial, researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

That’s because some studies have shown that rewards can backfire and cause children to lose interest in foods they already liked, said Jane Wardle, a researcher at University College London who worked on the study.

Verbal praise, such as “Brilliant! You’re a great vegetable taster,” did not work as well.

“We would recommend that parents consider using small non-food rewards, given daily for tasting tiny pieces of the food — smaller than half a little finger nail,” Wardle said in an email.

The study found that when parents gave their three- and four-year-olds a sticker each time they took a “tiny taste” of a disliked vegetable, it gradually changed the children’s attitudes.

Over a couple of weeks, children rewarded this way were giving higher ratings to vegetables, with the foods moving up the scale from between 1 and 2 — somewhere between “yucky” and “just okay” — to between 2 and 3, or “just okay” and “yummy.”

The children were also willing to eat more of the vegetables — either carrots, celery, cucumber, red pepper, cabbage or sugar snap peas — in laboratory taste tests, the study said.

Surely such bribes can’t work in the long-term. Stickers become boring, star charts get tired, lollies are hardly responsible rewards and prizes are expensive.

If the only way to get a child to do what they should be doing anyway is to bribe them, have you really done your job properly?

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