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The importance of maintaining classical continuity in the classroom

In a previous life I was a Professor of Cinema Studies. In film classes, we talk a lot about the differences between classical Hollywood cinema and its alternatives. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of classical Hollywood is a grammar of continuity editing. Back in the day, when this grammar was disrupted, the audience would feel, like Hamlet, as if time was “out of joint”. One of the most commonly cited examples of a counter to the classical formula can be found in Jean Luc Godard’s groundbreaking film, Breathless, a film which featured, among other things, repeated “jump cuts”. Jump cuts looked like mistakes to most viewers in 1960. Today, they are featured liberally in even the most formulaic blockbusters. Today’s spectators have grown accustomed to quick, disjointed, discontinuous moving images, which, in many ways, are the form of the world in which we live. Things move at ever-accelerating paces, often to unsettling degrees. In schools, the latest round of the pandemic has pounded us yet again with unexpected twists and turns, dislodging us from our seats and confronting us with still more discontinuities.

How can we maintain our breath in such times? Great educators, like great artists, are always aware of the classics. Godard’s film was dedicated to the legacy of the Hollywood traditions against which it worked. This generation has dedicated much discussion to teaching differently, parenting differently, being responsive to student’s needs, and pivoting whenever necessary to fully engage and inspire young people. This emphasis is important, but it must remain mindful of maintaining continuity amidst the bewildering and often disturbing array of images and events that confront us daily. At Blyth Academy, our schools have moved between remote and physical learning as seamlessly as possible. We are now providing a hybrid of these options, at the same time, in every classroom. We can do this effectively because our class sizes are small, our teachers accustomed to communicating frequently with families, and our administration dedicated to an agility that maintains continuous instruction through discontinuous times. We can cover the curriculum with four students in the classroom and three on the zoom screen, because our students are familiar with the format and teachers have refined their practices to navigate the platform. We sincerely hope that with the beginning of a new term in February we will be able to return to regularly scheduled programming in full force. But whatever the challenges that lie ahead, we will maintain continuity.

Michael Booth
Principal of Blyth Academy Lawrence Park

Published in Neighbours of Lawrence Park

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