I Need Another Blog

Look I don’t know where to put this:

I realize we’re all slobbering ourselves over the new iPhone ad slate but the dy/dan Advertiser of the Year Award goes to DDB, London for their so-great-it-can’t-really-be-advertising spot for Volkswagen, Night Driving.

I’ve watched it no fewer than twenty times, five of those during class-hours, during our routine show-and-tell. I only teach four classes but one asked to see it twice and I was blown backwards by their exceptional taste as they praised it, totally unbidden and unprompted …

… for its abstract photography, everyday locations rendered just slightly strange under moonlight (everyone had a favorite shot), just strange enough to keep us all leaning in on our toes, totally attentive;

Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep.

… for Richard Burton’s reading of Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milkwood,” a paternal tenor positively springloaded with menace;

Twenty-five times.

… for the score, which bounces all over the glass of the city and then, just as we’re getting gorged on all the minor-key imagery, kicks in a baseline that propels us to the finish.

Why this goes here:

Perhaps I have other teachers wrong but I remember too vividly high school instructors preaching their content area singlemindedly, driven by their discipline at the expense of all others. I don’t want to get too florid here in my description ā€” that’s Dylan Thomas’ fault today ā€” because oftentimes their enthusiasm made them more exciting and more engaging.

Didn’t matter if their content-area leash enabled or disabled them, though. As a kid with a bobbing, jittery interest in just about everything, an adult whose interests didn’t extend past her classroom door could only alienate me; that wasn’t anybody I ever wanted to be.

So I show a clip after our mid-period break. Every day I show something new and unseen. I model curiosity. Three out of four periods thought Night Driving was deadly dull and wanted something that ended with a loud fart or a pratfall. Fine, that’s fine. But with that one period, they and I, we promised ourselves that even if the math couldn’t be easy every day, even if we’d occasionally fail the terms of our implicit teacher-student contract, that we’d never bore each other. Not for lack of trying, anyway.

Postscript for the School 2.0 types:

Jumpcut is hosting a contest for Volkswagen. Remix your own night driving video with hosted footage and music and win one of two HD camcorders. Well, only one camcorder’s up for the taking, actually, as I’m already taking the other one home.

Between this and John August’s forthcoming trailer cutting competition, it’s like your campus video production teacher doesn’t even have to try anymore.

[Updated to correct my blog faux pas, to link up “Under Milkwood”. Thanks, Scott.]

About 

I’m Dan and this is my blog. I’m a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. More here.

10 Comments

  1. As a kid with a bobbing, jittery interest in just about everything, an adult whose interests didn’t extend past her classroom door could only alienate me; that wasn’t anybody I ever wanted to be.

    Absolutely. And every time I find something that might be interesting, I kind of carry it around in my brain and drop it on my American Lit or Essay Writing classes–ecology, African pop music, a cool movie, a weird stat, anything. We just finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five, the study of which was an orgy of assorted facts about the universe, WWII, humor, politics, etc.

    And that VW commercial rocked my socks. And I absolutely detest commercials. Nice find, Dan.

  2. Glad you liked it and glad you’ve got a similar Cornucopia o’ Miscellany running in your classroom. Keeps things interesting for yourself, if no one else. If you ever find yourself with a spare projector and a laptop, the process opens right up. You can find every odd historical occurrence or fact or hot dog eating contest (e.g.) on YouTube or Flickr or wherever. Such fun times to be a teacher.

  3. Thanks for the link. “Modelling curiosity”. A big range of concepts in a nutshell. Nice. I play background music sometimes, usually British stuff I’m fairly certain they might only just have heard of, ditto with clips from movies – no Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, etc – but stuff they probably won’t find on their Hollywood-saturated own, like Bend It Like Beckham, or any pre-Lord-of-the-Rings British movie, come to think of it! :-(

    “spare projector and laptop”: makes me even more determined to insist on a classroom equipped with screen, or at least a whiteboard and curtains.

  4. “American Beauty” comes to mind, for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.

    The visuals are striking. Burton’s voice / Dylan’s language — even more so. Could 30-second spots become the poetic landscape of the future? Will I hear Neruda’s odes atop a shoe commercial soon?

    Echo Jeff: “Great find.” Even better: “Great point.”

  5. I like the idea of bringing in the seemingly-unrelated as well. And as a literature-lover myself, I had to Google a little bit about Dylan Thomas and “Under Milk Wood” so I wanted to share this link for anyone else interested in further reading:

    http://snipr.com/1n9sj

  6. You can find every odd historical occurrence or fact or hot dog eating contest (e.g.) on YouTube or Flickr or wherever. Such fun times to be a teacher.

    Yeah, especially when your district’s IT department doesn’t increase filtration to the point when I can’t even get to this blog to show people your entries about layout and presentation. Ugh.

  7. Vixy.net. Preload then download. Drag but, you know. My district is nice and unfiltered, but we’ve got a home DSL line to service our entire district. Sah-low.