Anytime I learn something new about teaching, I feel my day has been made. Don Argot's documentary, Rock School, did that for me today. I watched a gifted Paul Green take a group of 9 to 17 year olds in his Paul Green School for Rock Music in Philadelphia and make them into a band playing Black Sabbath, Santana, and a Zappa that an audience bowed to at a German Zappanele concert.
I learned that you can abuse learners with profanity dominated by variations of "f---" ("Don't f---ing make mistakes!") and reality about their inadequacies ("You mess up once and I'll f---ing punch your face out.") and keep your job while your students achieve undreamed of results.
Green's cherubic visage, sincere love of the young, and obsession with making the right music are all ingredients of his success, which is crystallized in the memorable performances of his charges: CJ can play almost perfect guitar even sitting down with a bone malfunction, Madi sheds her dorky Sheryl Crowe bit to sing with original style, and young twins Asa and Tucker can do spot on Ozzy Osborne imitations.
Unlike old fictional chestnuts such as To Sir with Love, Mr. Holland's Opus, and Dead Poets SOciety, which purport to show the gifted teacher at work, this documentary honestly shows the flaws and virtues of a dedicated facilitator living only to see his pupils excel.
Rock School may have too much music and not enough insightful conversation and narration, but at least I could witness the artistic process at work. "If it wasn't for rock school, I'd probably be dead," says one student deeply hooked by the school's charismatic leader and unmitigated success. Teeners tend to exaggerate, but in this case it's certain he'd be spiritually lost without this unreal world of eccentric achievement, an after school activity like no other.
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