I consider myself to be culturally sensitive to my ESL students. That thought should be examined from time to time. There has been a shift in population among my students, but I have been unaware of it in the classroom even though I remain caught up in the news around the world. There are a couple of excellent films that I have used over the years, and I never thought about any negative reaction to them. (Perhaps there always were, but no student ever told me or wrote to me about it.)
Last quarter I showed 10 Minuta and The Red Jacket. Students were asked to summarize and interpret the films using the grammar that was being taught in the class at the time. Both films lend themselves to this activity.
For the first time, added to the summaries and interpretations were comments asking why I was requiring the students to watch films about war when some of the students had just come from battle-torn cities. I was asked if I had been aware that there were students from Ukraine in the class. They told me how traumatic it was for them to sit in a classroom and watch films that brought back horrific memories of their recent past. They couldn’t take it anymore.
I should have known that. There seem to be more and more refugees in class now. The whole point in showing these films originally was to remind the students about what war is. (This assumed that the students were not from countries where war being waged.) In fact, my actions repeated the filmmakers’ story lines in bringing the consequences of war back to a peaceful world away from the war. In this sense, the peaceful world is unaware of what is going on in the war zone. This thinking was meant to remind my ESL students of what was going on in other countries around the world. However, it didn’t take into consideration the students who might be from that war zone.
Here’s the dilemma. Do I not show the films anymore? Or do I show the two films to the class and alternative films to students from war-torn countries? Do I just make options? Students can choose which film they may want to see? Of course I will consult with my students in any case. But perhaps the situation has changed so drastically that i don’t have to remind students what war is . In any case, I will discuss this with my classes this quarter before I show any film.