Have you been censored by your administrators?
One of my colleagues has been using the old Zefferelli version of Romeo and Juliet movie in her class for years. This past fall, however, the assistant principal happened to walk into her room during the morning after scene and witnessed Romeo's bare behind. The asst. principal panicked, and the principal had the teacher in tears when he warned her about using "appropriate" resources.
This same principal questioned me about why I had my students read Antigone. Um--the district says I have to!
I am glad I am not the only one who "struggles" with working in a Christian school. Although I am a Christian myself, I do find it so hard that there are a number of novels I am not allowed to teach that I would love to, and also when I show certain films (such as the aforementioned version of R & J) I have to censor bits out by holding a postcard in front of the projector! Pain and embarrassment on all fronts!
I am disgusted at the assistant principal's reaction to Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet! (How am I not remembering that bare behind!?! Ha!) I'm afraid the assistant principal's reaction is one of fear and ignorance. *sigh* Irate parents can certainly be pretty scary. I'll admit, though, that I don't think I have ever shown an entire film in my classes. My method of teaching revolves around a tiny "clip" of many modern movies (almost every day, in fact) to teach any literary concept in the curriculum. ALL of my clips are "G-rated," although they may not be from a "G-rated" film. I have never had an issue with this and have always been encouraged by my department and administration (albeit they hired me with the knowledge of my unconventional practices). But I digress . . .
I agree with post #3, . . . absolutely cover yourself with permission slips if there is any content not "G-rated." For example, to stimulate interest, I once had my students write a literary criticism paper on a movie (analyzing aspects like lighting, camerawork, setting, directing, acting, etc.). The students had a hand in picking the movie from start to finish. We were to watch it in class under my direction (as the kids took copious notes). Well, they chose Forrest Gump (which is PG-13). I had EVERY SINGLE STUDENT get that permission slip signed. Thank God, because a few weeks later, a kid cussed in class and blamed it on the movie. Well, I whipped out that permission slip and that was the end of it. Gosh, I love my principal! : )
A couple of years ago, I taught the book Night in my 8th grade reading class. We didn't have enough books to make a class set, so we listened to the tapes. I was out sick one day and, as usual, had a sub. After a few minutes of Weisel's "colorful" language, she was so shocked she turned it off. I used the movie Red Dawn to imagine what things might have been like if Hitler had won the war. The DVD was still in the machine, so the kids talked her into letting them watch it again. She got shocked again. I know she thinks I'm an amoral degenerate! (She's a preacher's wife, by the way.)
As I stated above, I'm careful to stick with our set reading lists and am careful not to show objectionable movies. But as Amy said, permission slips are a great solution to that problem. Although I wouldn't try to show anything "R", there are PG and PG-13 movies that I would definitely have permission slips go out for, just to CYA and to cover the school.
Although our board and headmaster want us to stick with "the classics," they also do not object when I add other material to supplement, and they have given me the authority (English Dept. Chair) to approve supplemental materials that the other English teachers ask to use. So they are definitely not a bunch of close-minded crazies who veto ideas simply because they're new. They even voted unanimously to let me keep the word "ass" in Much Ado About Nothing last summer...When I asked about it, I just knew they were going to tell me to take it out...just knew it...just knew they wouldn't understand about not censoring Shakespeare...but I was prepared to let it go as I wanted to get our drama program going so badly. Their response? "Why did she even ask? Of course she should keep it in...we're NOT censoring Shakespeare!" :)
Anyone who survived these two long-winded responses? More power to you! :)
This is kind of a dual answer...Linda, you asked what kind of school I teach in in another topic, so I thought I'd mention it here since it goes so well with this topic, too!
I teach in a VERY small, K-12 grade private, Christian school. We've had as many as 80 students before, but now we have around 40. Our graduating classes have ranged in size from 2 people to 6! Our school is set up with a Great Hall system - We have a secondary GH for 7-12 grades, and an elementary GH for 2-6 (if we have K-1st students, then they have their own, more traditional classroom). The students, 2nd-12th grades, attend each of their classes once a week, and the rest of the time they work on their assignments in the Great Halls, where there are instructors who help each student as they need it. Our official school day is 8-12, but we also offer an afternoon GH from 12-3 for those kids who need extra help with homework or parents simply need them to be at school all day. It is an AMAZING educational system. It never ceases to amaze me how much kids can get done in this set-up.
Yes, I am careful about what I show. Parents pay money for their kids to be in this environment, so we respect that. If a parent objects to a book on our list, then we assign a different book for that child, but we don't take the book off the reading list. (running out of room...will continue in another post)
When I show films (and I do often show films to reiterate themes, history of the time period, and DRAMA is meant to be SEEN), I cover myself with permission slips. Something to the effect of : I, (parent name), give my son/daughter permission to watch (title of film) which is rated_(PG-13 or R)_. The rating includes brief nudity, violence, language, etc. (Whatever is appropriate). I understand that if I refuse my son/daughter permission, and alternate assignment will be given in another location. I understand that if I have any questions regarding the film, I should first call the teacher. Signed, (parent name and student name).
I rarely have students who do not have their parents' permission. I show ELIZABETH, PACT WITH THE DEVIL (a modern twist on The Picture of Dorian Gray) FRANKENSTEIN, and several others with questionable ratings.
I am so lucky to be at a small continuation school. We have 5 teachers and one administrator who is wonderful. He taught for 13 years before going into admin so he knows what it's like to teach and he can empathize with our situations. We have an accelerated program where we teach a semester inside one quarter, we don't water anything down, and because they think we just babysit we are almost 100% autonomous with what we teach and when we teach it (of course keeping within the scope of the standards and approved texts). Our administrator loves what we do and rarely if ever has questioned anything we do in our classrooms. His mantra is if it works then he's 100% behind whatever it is we feel we need to do in our classrooms.
It's too bad when administration comes down hard on teachers for such petty things. The plays are racier than the movies and often times when talking to my friends at other schools, they feel like admin is so out of tune with the teaching process, the approved texts, supplemental materials, and the like that it's very frustrating. It's hard to teach well when you feel like you have people who don't get it breathing down your neck all the time. Stories that I've heard like yours make me never want to leave my job at this school because I really don't know how I would react to someone who is out of touch with teaching and often times the students.
It is really unfortunate when administrators fail to support teachers at a school. I don't see this issue as a censorship one, but more of a concern about the administration's attitude towards the teachers.
Why an asst principal would do that is unclear. I have the feeling that he or she is uncomfortable in thewir position of authority and has trouble dealing with it, which is why small incidents turn into major affairs.
You should sit down with your administration and talk to them about the materials you use in class, and if the materials are approved by your district or school committee then no one should have a problem with that. You should also show them your syllabus that you stand behind in preparing students to meet whatever standards you have set for them.
If the teacher ended up in tears over this problem, it is also equally important to make sure that other teachers do not have the same problem and make sure that everyone is acting as a team and is on the same page.
It is sometimes sad when officials lose site of the objectives of the school and deal with th9ings inappropriately. You have to find a way to make sure these things don't happen again.
The school where I teach has some fairly conservative parents. Several years back a parent, who was also a school board member, pushed for the district to enforce only showing G rated materials! (Even if a permission slip is sent home) The only way we can get around this policy is by showing "clips" of movies. I must admit... my version of "clips" at times has been fast forwarding for only a few seconds here or there :)
Fortunately, this policy doesn't also apply to the materials we read in class. (Though I did have to white out the swear words in The Things They Carried for a student last year...)