Early in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard describes looking carefully at leaves in mid-summer. Most of them had holes or jagged edges where they had been eaten. She remarked that all of us have had pieces chomped out; all of the living carry wounds. Moonrise Kingdom’s major characters, adults and children, have all been beaten up and dented. None are noble although some do noble deeds. All of them are failures in profound ways, but many rise to acts of genuine heroism. Keep your superheroes and the dull formulas that govern their small lives. Give me Suzy and Sam, 12 year old outcasts who fall in love and do their best to break away from their adult worlds of bullying cheating, and rejection.
The director of MK, Wes Anderson, respects children. He does not see them as infantile goofs or sexual engines or mini-adults or all wise and mature beyond their years. Suzy and Sam run away together, spin fantasy-tales of how their new lives must unfold, cause heartache to those who genuinely love them, lie, sneak around and Suzy stabs someone (in defense of Sam). Both are smart messes but completely sincere in their devotion to the other.
While watching the movie, I kept thinking about my years of teaching and about children as we meet them in September, those new faces hiding who they really are and waiting for us to make a move. I think it is best for all who teach to remember what handfuls we had been as children, how opaque and maddeningly stubborn. Remember how remote we often seemed to adult rules of logic and common sense cause and effect. Everyone involved would be better off if schools threw out all the dry-as-toast, instantly forgotten, make believe in-service programs endorsed by most districts and instead spent a day figuring out together how to greet children as they are, with scraps chomped out, a little dented, a little weird, but capable of devotion and wild leaps of curiosity and of a purity of hope. And, of course, we should always be aware that they will be taught by messes like us.
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