Woody Allen On Education

I have been trying to write this for a while, but just didn't know how. Now I do.

I watched a documentary about Woody Allen a couple days ago. I always liked Woody Allen movies. I learned about his work ethic (strong--writes every day and puts out a movie a year, good or bad) and how he is able to get such great performances out of actors.

The thing he does first is cast well. He meets an actor for a minute or 2 (or 10 seconds) and decides if they are right for the part. If they get the job but don't work out, he blames himself for poor casting, fires them and hires someone else. No big deal, not a value judgement. It's not about worth, it's about fit. And he tells his actors the script is just an outline and they can change lines all they want as long as the meaning isn't lost; he's going for realism, and when actors can use their own words, it's just more realistic, ergo better.

Actors rave about Woody's direction -- which is minimal to non-existent, unless an actor asks for more direction. When an actor needs direction, Woody gives only positive comments and tries to make the actor comfortable so the actor can then give the best performance she is capable of. No pressure. Woody has a belief in the actor's ability to act and expects they will. They are professionals. A few Best Actor/Actress nominations and Oscars later, his method appears sound.

Again, actors love being directed by Woody because he believes in them and leaves them alone to do what they do--act.

What does this have to do with education reform? Well, reformers like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and the rest of them seem to operate in the opposite fashion; the anti-Woody.

Reformers have no trust in the actors (teachers). They make us follow a script we cannot alter. They tell us to do certain prescribed things in certain prescribed ways for certain prescribed purposes, none of which help children or allow teachers --gifted or not-- to reach their potential (earn a nomination or get an Oscar). Woody creates conditions where actors not only are responsible for their performance, but are free to do their best; Woody does not know how to get them to give their best. He trusts they will with enough freedom and positive support. The public love his movies and the Academy awards his movies and actors Oscars.

Woody doesn't read reviews and doesn't care for the Oscars. He thinks the awards are arbitrary. I agree.

The point, if you haven't got it sussed yet, is to leave teachers alone. Let them do what they do. Give them the support they need. Then they will be awesome.

(This probably true of every profession)

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