Pauline Kael is regarded to be one of the best film reviewers to have ever lived. Sam Sacks has a piece on Kael in which he describes her style of film review, one based less on academic nitpicking and the presence (or absence) of directorial flourishes than on her personal aesthetic response to cinema. She is quoted as saying that there is only one rule in filmmaking:
There is only one rule: Astonish us! In all art we look and listen for what we have not experienced quite that way before. We want to see, to feel, to understand, to respond in a new way.
I read this quote and immediately realized that this rule applies to teaching as well. I have often described teaching as doing two things – making the strange familiar (an eclipse of the sun is caused by the moon falling into the earth’s shadow) or making the familiar strange (all matter is essentially empty space). What is common is the sense of surprise we experience in both cases.
It appears to me that very often we forget the value of astonishment and awe in teaching and learning. This is where the quote above really connects with my idea of teaching. Repeating the quote but by changing just one word—replacing “art” with “teaching.”
There is only one rule: Astonish us! In all teaching we look and listen for what we have not experienced quite that way before. We want to see, to feel, to understand, to respond in a new way.
How do we as educators meet this goal of “astonishing us all.”