A great way to clarify concepts is through movie scenes, because we can fully feel and understand teaching situations through the teacher and student perspectives. I enjoy very much using teacher movies to promote dialogue with educators at school.
Today we will analyze the teaching scenes from the movie “Seven Years in Tibet”, which is based on the autobiographical book written by Heinrich Harrer during the years of 1944 and 1951, when he accidentally became the Dalai Lama’s teacher.
The following affective teaching lessons can be learned from these inspiring scenes:
Right in the beginning Heinrich found himself in a totally new environment with new rules and procedures. By being respectful and curious he also became a learner and allowed the Dalai Lama to teach him about the Tibetan culture. In affective learning both student and teacher are constantly energized by joyful learning. Heinrich later showed his appreciation by sharing his remarkable experience in his book.
Heinrich used the pedagogy of questions, when he explored the Dalai Lama’s interests as a way of building the curriculum. Instead of choosing the content and demanding answers, he answered to a real learning demand from the student. Teachers can use students’ interest and knowledge as starting points and from there explore related subjects. One fantastic exchange that shows the pedagogy of questions is when the Dalai Lama says “Tell me more” and Heinrich answers with “What else do you want to know?”.
Moving geography, car mock driving, interacting with a globe by the river and having an assistant while fixing a radio were strategies used to make learning multidimensional. We can see that Heinrich valued the learning by doing, instead of learning by knowing. Teachers can create powerful engaging learning contexts when they are fully present and notice elements from the environment that can include multiple senses in learning. This being creative not only fosters better assimilation, but also makes learning and teaching more fun.
Heinrich and the Dalai Lama were subversive to the establishment when they sat at the same height by the river, as they perceived they would benefit from this forbidden interaction. This happens when teachers risk themselves to educate in “forbidden” ways that are in the best interest of learning.
By the end of the last scene, Heinrich shared about his life, showed himself vulnerable and talked about his son. By using self-disclosure, he showed he valued and trusted his student, and opened space for personal dialogues about learning from life. This practice expands learning boundaries, and frees students and teachers from their established roles. The more we talk about ourselves, the more students will talk about themselves.
A curiosity about this film is that Tibetan scenes were filmed in Argentina. I know because I went to the little city of Uspallata and there lots of pictures of Brad Pitt with locals!
I pictured myself living in Lhasa and teaching the Dalai Lama. Has this happened to you as well? This would certainly be the ultimate teaching experience!
Check also affective teaching scenes from Mr Holland's Opus, where Mr. Holland inspires struggling students in his Music class.
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