Monday, November 20

Seize the day

Next week I will show my students the film "Dead Poets Society" (1989), I think that they really need to watch it and they will not have to bring back a report or talk about it in class, just to watch it and make up their minds about it.
I could watch this great story over and over, it's one of all-time favourite; and tears would come to my eyes and stream down my cheeks every time. But not only will this film touch my heart and bring tears, it will inspire me to be a better teacher, to follow my dreams no matter what the boundaries may be and to seize the day and make my life extraordinary.
"Dead Poets Society" is the film that best explores the idea of "Carpe Diem" (Seize the day), to live every moment to the fullest from the viewpoint of a classroom of young men in a boarding school.
When a new English teacher arrives, John Keating (played by Robin Williams), he brings with him a passion for teaching romanticism, opening a never-before-seen world to his students. The film also explores the conflict between realism and romanticism as these contrasting ideal are presented in the prestigious Welton Academy founded in four principles: "Tradition, Honor, Discipline and Excellence. According to the boys: "Travesty, Horror, Decadence and Excrement".
Keating begins his unorthodox teaching methods with a fervent lecture, explaining to the students his core philosophy, to contribute a meaningful verse, so that when it came time for them to die, they would not "discover that they had not lived".
He explains that their lives are fleeting, so they should seize the day before it is too late to make their lives count.
He teaches them the works of the romantic poets such as Thoreau and Lord Byron and employs
outdoor exercises to warn them of the dangers of conformity and the power of sports as a way which human beings push each other to excel.
The English teacher was their inspiration and made their lives extraordinary, he embodies every teacher who you thought was cool and respectable, the teacher we all wish we'd had.
He brings warmth, passion and quite humour as he foster individualism in a school environment of total conformity, teaching these young men both the beauty of the English language and the importance of living life to the full (seizing the day). This teacher believed so much in his students, that it changed their lives.
Needless to say, Mr. Keating's unorthodox approach meets with obstacles, from his fellow teachers, from the school's ultra traditional Headmaster and from parents.
Keating tells his students they should call him "O Captain! My Captain!, title of a Walt Whitman poem about the assessination of Abraham Lincoln and foreshadows Keating's symbolic death at the end of the film (his removal from teaching, which is his passion).
The film concludes with the previously very shy Todd Anderson, climbing to the top of his desk to salute his fallen teacher, who changed his life, followed by the rest of the students standing on their desks in front of Mr. Nolan, in open defiance, calling to Keating, "O Captain! My Captain! to show him that his message has been understood and appreciated while Nolan stands helpless with the realization that there are too many in this demonstration to expell quietly.
With tears in his eyes, Keating says "Thank you, boys. Thank you" and the film ends on a high, but uncertain note.
It has one of the most powerful endings I've experienced similar to the one in "America History X" film.
I like "Dead Poets Society" since it is one of those films that change your life, subtly altering your perception of reality and because it showed me that we have the responsability and the joy of being alive in this planet, so we have precious little time to make a difference, and we have the moral obligation to "seize the day" and make our lives extraordinary. That the only limitations are withing ourselves and that we have to fight, to rebel against conformity to change what we hate and keep what we love.
I recommend everybody to give this film a chance and see it, it may just change your life.

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