Have I told this story before? If I have forgive me, bottom line is there’s no cover charge to get in so what are you complainin’ about?
Many years ago I taught an after school art program to middle schoolers at a terrific Charter School in Bellingham Ma. Let me give you a heads up, if you’ve got school age kids and a good Charter school near you do what you have to do to get them in. I worked with 4 Charter schools and 5 public schools over the years and there is NO comparison between the staffs. Public school teachers for the most part hated their jobs. Charter School teachers were engaged fully.
Somehow I morphed the class one Fall into a Horror Film Study Class— I reasoned, and I still feel this way, that you can learn a lot about storytelling by watching film. I was tasked with finding movies that were reasonably short and appropriate for middle school aged kids and ones that they would get something out of.
I showed them NOSFERATU (1922) so they could see how having no sound gives a film a certain nightmarish quality.
“This is boring.” Was the reply.
I showed them FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) so we could compare how a soundtrack adds so much to a film.
“When is this going to get scary, Mr Fish?”
I showed them a few more things— good movies, and still they wanted to get scared. So then I showed them Tobe Hooper’s 1979 TV mini series SALEM’S LOT (with some of the more adult content edited out of the first half that I felt didn’t drive the plot and could trim a few needed minutes out of the movie).
“This is boring too….”
Then the ghost/vampire kid appeared at the window, and I noticed some shuffling in the seats. Then Mike the caretaker…
The room got decidely quiet. No more complaints.
They were actually paying attention.
Some were even intent on watching the screen.
Then Mr Barlow appeared
And the room lost it. Kids screamed, kids ran out of the room, more than one puddle left behind.
The following week as I walked into the school there was a note for me in my mailbox to come and see my immediate supervisor.
He was (and is) a great guy. He read me some of the emails he’d gotten from parents. Kids had nightmares. Kids couldn’t sleep. Kids were messed up.
He questioned my choice of showing an R-Rated movie to them.
I explained to him that he had the wrong version of the film, he was referencing the remake with Rob Lowe, what I showed them was an edited copy of the TV original, rated PG 13 (which was a parameter I had agreed to at the start of the semester).
He stood up and shook my hand.
I walked into class and the kids were so excited by what we had seen. They produced some amazing work based off that jolt of creative fear. I caught the headmaster looking in on the class at one point.
On my way out, he stepped out of his office and called me in.
He told me he’d noticed the success that the class had realized and congratulated me on giving the kids a good Halloween scare.
That was a lot of fun.