Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

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 Education Version of Groundhog Day (Updated)

February 3, 2014


groundhog day

In the classic 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day, Murray was forced to relive the same day over and over again until he learned from his mistakes.  Whilst only a light-hearted comedy on the surface, Groundhog Day was a timely reminder that mistakes and its consequences are repeated over and over again until they are learned from.

Every time the curriculum changes I think of Groundhog Day.  I’ve only been a teacher for a short time, yet already I have seen the curriculum change 4 times.  First it was the CSF, then it became the CSF 2, followed soon after by VELS. And the curriculum has recently been changed yet again!

And this time it’s a National Curriculum – and it stinks!

Why do they do it to us?  Just when you get used to one curriculum, they change it from another.

The cynic in me says the Government is bereft of ideas.  They know that education outcomes are underwhelming, that there isn’t much satisfaction in the quality of schools and performance indicators are not painting a rosy picture.  Yet, they don’t have a clue what to do about it.  They neither have the money, vision or gumption to make any real change, so they go for the obvious alternative – perceived change.

When asked to reflect on their achievements in Education, the former Government proudly pointed to overhauling the curriculum.  They triumphantly declared that by introducing a national curriculum, they were able to do what previous administrations couldn’t.

But they will know the truth all along – you can’t change the fortunes of an ailing academic record by altering and renaming a curriculum.  In fact, from my experience you can’t expect any change at all. Unless it is change for the negative.

Even if my cynical take is wrong, and there is some good intention behind this new curriculum, it doesn’t seem to be adding anything of substance.  A bit more grammar, a deeper focus on handwriting and a greater emphasis on history sounds good.  But when it comes down to it, it is just like my boss said both this time and last time and the time before that, “Don’t worry. It is going to be very similar to our current curriculum.”

The same mistakes over and over again …


Click on the link to read Adding Sex Education to the Curriculum Comes at the Expense of Something Else

Have Our Children Stopped Dreaming?

December 19, 2013


I’ve thought it all out. We’re going to
live on a horse ranch, my husband and I.
I’ll work for NASA. And my husband…
he’ll do something completely different.
And we’ll offset each other. Like we’ll
have some things in common but we’ll also
have all these other dimensions that we
bring to the relationship. And that’s how
I know it’ll work.
Sounds like a dream.
(right back at him)
It’s good to have dreams. Don’t you

Above is dialogue from the best teenage drama I have seen in many years, The Spectacular Now.

It got me thinking. Do our children have dreams like our parents did? Like we did?

The generation of the moon landing always remind us that the event of man on the moon was not the main cause of celebration – it was the feeling that if we can walk on the moon, we can achieve anything we put our mind to.

Maybe those ambitions and dreams were dashed, leaving my generation feeling less convinced that vision and the determination to see it come to fruition is enough to make it happen. We still had dreams, but perhaps our faith in our capacity to see it through brought on a more lackluster work ethic and more brittle resolve.

Today’s children seem to have taken on our worst habits and abandoned the thirst for achieving something special. They don’t seem to know what they want to be or want to do. They often seem to lack the spark of self-belief to even contemplate achieving something monumental, or at least unique.

You might think I am being pessimistic when it comes to the next generation and their prospects for the future. This is certainly not the case. I have so much faith in our young. They have so much to offer and are extremely willing to learn. They just need to be ignited – to start believing again.

And they don’t need a moon landing or a Mars mission to get them dreaming again. They just need to look at their parents and teachers and role models and feel assured by what they see. If they see us living lives of integrity, taking smart risks, following our dreams, taking pleasure in our lives, they will understand that the hard work required is for a good reason. An achievable reason.We don’t want to raise a generation of children that shelves dreams in preference for the safe and boring road.

It’s up to us.

Kids Films You Might Regret Sharing with Your Children

December 11, 2013





Courtesy of Betsy Bozdech:

  • Bambi
    Why you should watch out: Bambi’s mother’s death takes place offscreen, but it’s still the first thing most viewers remember, even decades later. Bambi’s subsequent frantic search for her is almost as upsetting. Read the full review.


  • 2
    Why you should watch out: Dumbo’s mother doesn’t die, but she’s cruelly separated from him after she’s provoked into a scary rampage. The follow-up scene in which she cradles him with her trunk through the bars of her cage window is gut-wrenching. Read the full review.


  • 3
    Finding Nemo
    Why you should watch out: Some parents we know just skip the first scene of this movie altogether until their kids are old enough to handle Nemo’s mom’s untimely demise at the jaws of a menacing predator fish. Read the full review.


  • 4
    The Land Before Time
    Why you should watch out: Young dinosaur Littlefoot’s mother is killed by an aggressive T-rex in this otherwise generally upbeat prehistoric adventure. Read the full review.


  • 5
    The Lion King
    Why you should watch out: Not only does Simba’s dad get trampled to death by a herd of stampeding wildebeests, but Simba unfairly blames himself for the tragedy. Read the full review.


  • 6
    Why you should watch out: This story about a family dealing with divorce and remarriage takes a tragic turn when the kids’ mom is diagnosed with fatal cancer. Read the full review.


  • 7
    We Bought a Zoo
    Why you should watch out: Here, the mom passed away six months before the movie begins, but the impact on her family is very much in evidence. Sometimes watching characters deal with grief can be even more painful than the death itself. Read the full review.


  • 8
    Why you should watch out: While Ellie isn’t a parent (which is another emotional aspect of the movie), her death at the end of an extremely poignant montage early in the film has a powerful impact. Read the full review.


  • 9
    Bridge to Terabithia
    Why you should watch out: Anyone who’s read the book that this touching drama is based on knows what’s in store for fearless, imaginative Leslie — misfit Jess’ only friend — but those expecting a fantasy adventure à la Harry Potter should be warned: Tragedy ahead! Read the full review.


  • 10
    Grave of the Fireflies
    Why you should watch out: Beautifully animated but unrelentingly sad, this heartbreaking WWII-set anime tale centers on two children — brother and sister — who sicken and die. Read the full review.


  • 11
    My Girl
    Why you should watch out: The unexpected death of preteen Vada’s best friend (by bee sting, no less) hits many kids very hard, especially since much of the rest of the movie has a sweetly nostalgic feel. Read the full review.


  • 12
    The Odd Life of Timothy Green
    Why you should watch out: Technically Timothy doesn’t die, but he disappears forever, causing pain for those who loved him, which can be just as hard for kids to deal with. Read the full review.


  • 13
    Why you should watch out: No, E.T. isn’t exactly a child, and no, he doesn’t really die — but for a few moments, it seems as if he has, and those few moments can be enough to send young fans of the spunky little alien into a tailspin. Also, plenty of kids who love the little alien are still afraid that he might be living with their stuffed animals in the closet… Read the full review.


  • 14
    Charlotte’s Web
    Why you should watch out: When Wilbur’s dear friend and constant champion weaves her last web after doing so much for others, many kids are caught unprepared. Read the full review.


  • 15
    Marley & Me
    Why you should watch out: Many families decided to watch this based-on-a-true-story tale because of ads featuring silly dog antics… and were left distraught by Marley’s sad death. Read the full review.


Ron Burgundy Gets School Named After Him (Video)

December 7, 2013



Click on the link to read Nine-Year-Old Stands Up for His School (Video)

Click on the link to read Inspiring Kids who Look After a Sick Parent

Click on the link to read The Perfect Example of Courage and Self-Respect

Click on the link to read Woman Re-Mortagages Her House To Feed School Kids

Click on the link to read Insensitive ‘Parent Bashers’ Take Aim at Grieving Colorado Parents

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.

Need School Security? Call in Steven Seagal!

February 10, 2013

I wish I could say this is just an idea for a cheesy Hollywood comedy. Unfortunately, I can’t:

Action film star Steven Seagal, who racks up big body counts in his on-screen battles with bad guys, took on a new role on Saturday, training posse volunteers for controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in how to use guns to protect schools in shooting incidents.

Arpaio, who styles himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” enlisted Seagal to train his Maricopa County posse members at a school in Fountain Hills, a suburb northeast of Phoenix, with children used as stand-ins for scared students.

Seagal, a burly martial arts expert turned actor, guided 48 volunteers through various aspects of responding to a shooting, including room-to-room searches, and critiqued their work.

“I am here to try to teach the posse firearms and martial arts to try to help them learn how to respond quicker and help protect our children,” Seagal said.

Arpaio, whose tough stances on crime and illegal immigration have made him a national figure, has dispatched the volunteer posse to patrol schools in response to the shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school in December.

Those killings touched off a renewed debate over gun violence in the United States. President Barack Obama proposed a sweeping package of gun-control measures, including a ban on assault weapons.

The National Rifle Association, which opposes the gun-control proposal, has advocated placing armed security guards in schools.

Arpaio’s volunteers, some trained and qualified to carry the same guns as deputies, can intervene if there is an imminent threat to life. To add realism to the training event, guns firing non-lethal rounds that leave a color mark were used.

“It’s important to help protect our children and our schools and we need to do that with whatever means we have,” said Rick Velotta, a posse member and retired General Electric manager who attended the training.

About a dozen people protested the event.

“No gun should ever be in a school,” said protester Cynthia Wharton, a Fountain Hills resident.

Arpaio’s 3,450-strong posse of unpaid men and women has for years helped the sheriff target drunken drivers and illegal immigrants, and chase down fathers who are behind on child support.

Last year, Arpaio sent posse members to Hawaii to investigate the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate at the request of local Tea Party activists, a key Arpaio constituency.

A sometime resident of the Phoenix Valley and member of Arpaio’s posse, Seagal, 60, starred in big-budget films in the 1980s and early 1990s, earning a reputation as an action star in movies like “Above the Law” and “Under Siege.”

He more recently played a corrupt Mexican drug lord in the 2010 film “Machete.”

Seagal also has been sworn in as a sheriff’s deputy in a Texas county along the border with Mexico and appeared in a reality TV show detailing his work as a reserve deputy in New Orleans.

Instead of training school security posses, it would be nice to see a school trying to change its culture, become more inclusive and make its student population feel appreciated for who they are and what they have to offer.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio watches as actor Steven Seagal addresses the media about a simulated school shooting in Fountain Hills

Click on the link to read Do You Really Want to Arm Me?

Click on the link to read Living With Adam Lanza

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

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

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.

Why Don’t They Make Suitable Movies For Kids Anymore?

July 3, 2012

It’s school holidays and there isn’t one G rated (General Classification) movie at the cinemas. I would understand how that could happen during the school year – but during holidays?

Movies like The Brave and Ice Age 4 have violence and course language warnings and are intended for families rather than children. Unfortunately, some adults are so selfish that they would refuse to go to the movies with their children unless the film proved entertaining for them too. I am all for adult in-jokes and films that entertain both myself and my daughter, but not at the expense of a good, wholesome, non-violent movie experience. I would gladly suffer through a children’s film as long as it was appropriate for my daughter.

Yesterday my daughter and I watched Annie together. Annie, although still a hit stage musical, would never have gotten made today. Neither would have other child friendly films like Mary Poppins. These films don’t have enough crude toilet humour, adult themes and violence.

How sad is that?

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