What film strategies are used to emphasize meaning?
The mood of a film is set through the film techniques the movie staff uses. This film had natural lighting, and simple shots that dealt mostly with speech and camera angles (low-angle shot and eye level shots). Because these shots were simple, there was little to no movement shots, no sound effects or crazy music, no noticeable editing techniques or special effects. The film techniques were simple and the camera shots focused on the dialogue dynamic. The camera angles showed the power dynamic between Mr. Griffiths and his students, but the change (dimming) of lighting and camera angle also showed Mr. Griffiths compassionate side. Although he maintained his monotone voice and humor, the shooting style emphasized that he and Olive are equals, and that he was approaching her in a kind, concerned manner.
How are teachers (specifically Mr. Griffiths) portrayed in this movie?
Mr. Griffiths was a funny, monotone teacher, who commanded authority with his posture and demeanor, and simply because he was one of the few adult figures in the movie. He always happened to appear in situations where an adult presence would be needed: when the kid is smoking a cigarette, when Olive is seducing boys on the lunch line with mashed potatoes on a spoon (he simply said: "what are you doing?"), when Nina and Olive get into a quarrel, etc. His presence was a stabilizing, normal force in some of the outlandish scenes in this movie.
In regards to teaching, he engaged students by making them laugh, and using rap music, which helped peak their interest and make the potentially boring novel easier for students to relate to. He acknowledged that some of his students didn't read the book, and instead watched the Demi Moore version of the movie, but noticed/appreciated that Olive read the book so thoroughly. He seemed to favor her over the other students in the class, but with seemingly good reason, since she was one of the only one who actually did the work. He even confided in her that he didn't like Nina and didn't want to send her to the Principal. He cares about her change in attitude and is so concerned about her well-being, that he asks the guidance counselor to talk to her. He was strict with disciplining (ie- he sent Olive and Nina to the Principal's office as soon as they started using foul language), but we learn that he only does so to maintain authority in the classroom. Overall, it is clear that he cares about his students' well-being and is aware of their behavior.
Do I agree with the depiction of teachers and the overall structure of the school?
In regards to the overall structure of the school, I don't think the Principal's description of the school was on par with how the school actually functioned. I was nervous about teacher/student portrayal in the movie, because the Principal says: "This is a public school. If I can keep the girls off the pole and the boys off the pipe, I get a bonus," so I assumed that the students would be wild and the teachers would be extremely strict. This line coming from the Principal of the school seems like it would foreshadow a school that is out of control. But, instead the students are intelligent, active participants in the school community (clubs, advocacy groups, mascots, huge support for sporting events, etc.). Although there is some chaos with drama, as to be seen in any school, there is a great sense of community and students really seem to respect teachers. In addition, students are (for the most part) well behaved in class, and seem engaged in the learning process. Although the drama was quickly circulated through technology in a way in which I don't think was realistic, I thought the other aspects of the school were desirable and realistic.
I thought Mr. Griffiths' portrayal was on point, but a bit exaggerated. I liked that he was a male English teacher, because often teachers are stereotypically depicted as females, when in reality I've encountered several male teachers, and we have a bunch of male students in our major. I also enjoyed his teaching style. He used humor to keep his students awake, laughing and paying attention. But more importantly, as we learned in the readings we've done for this course, he made the material easy to relate too by introducing the larger themes of the novel using a rap song. This rap song not only informed students of themes of the story, but it enabled them to laugh and caused them to be curious about the text. He also partnered the canon text with a film, another strategy we read about in this course. By showing another version of the text, he helped students better understand the reading. I would've loved to watch more about his lesson on The Scarlet Letter, but from what I saw that was written on the blackboard, he also provided a framework for this text. He gave his students important background information on the time period of the setting of the novel, which will allow them to look at the situation from the perspective of someone living in Puritan Boston during the 17th-century. He explained to them that the way in which women and their sexual expectations vary greatly from those standards today. He also showed compassion for his students, the way that many of my teachers in the past have showed compassion towards me. He genuinely wanted the best for his students, and all the students in the school. He had one-on-one conferences with Olive, and patrolled the school for misbehavior. When he found a student doing something wrong, he (in an exaggerated manner) talked to them about right and wrong.
Even though Mr. Griffiths role as a teacher has several realistic characteristics, it is also a exaggerated in some respects. Like I said earlier, he often went around preaching cliche's about right and wrong when he caught kids doing something they shouldn't be doing. Also, his presence was exaggerated. He is the only teacher we see in the movie, and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time (he always catches people doing bad or awkward things). He is always on patrol to make sure that students are making the right choices. In addition, his classroom management strategies seemed a little extreme. Because it was a movie, it made sense for the students to get sent to the Principal's office, but I think in a real life situation (especially on a first offense) a teacher would have handled the situation internally instead of turning to outside intervention. I think the Principal's office was added for dramatic, yet (because of the situation) comedic, effect.
In summary: I really liked this movie/would recommend it, and thought it portrayed the role of the teacher better then most other movies I've seen.