Posts tagged Emperor’s Club

“Dead Poet’s Society” and “Everything is in our Hands”

The other day I had my teachers watch the Robin Williams movie “Dead Poet’s Society.” In many ways it is similar to “Emperor’s Club” but in other ways it takes a decided turn by the end of the movie.  DPS is a melancholy movie but it always creates GREAT discussion afterwards. I like to use Moodle as a place for my teachers to discuss amongst themselves what their thoughts are on different topics. I’m giving you a peak into what  two said to each other in reflecting on the plot and what it means to them in present day life in Astana, Kazakhstan.

I told my students after the movie was over and we were exploring different topics it brought up that this was based on a true story.  Well, apparently I was wrong! The only part I had right was the character Robin Williams played, in real life he was Sam Pickering, Jr.  I googled and found the plot is based not on real life events but instead on fiction, yet google seems too silent.  I know that Sam Pickering really exists, he has many books he has written and if you look in Wikipedia, you will see for yourself.  But what happens in the movie and what actually happened in Pickering’s real life, we may never know.  The following is what I found out and it provided a way to give proper attribution to the website where I found “Is DPS Based on a True Story?”

According to the Alumni Department of Montgomery Bell Academy:

“The movie “Dead Poets Society” was written by Thomas Schulman, a 1968
 graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy. The teacher portrayed by Robin
 Williams in the movie was based on one of Mr. Schulman’s teachers while he
 was at MBA, Mr. Sam Pickering. The events in the movie, however, are purely

John Keating. Dead Poets Society: The Death of a Romantic. Retrieved November 27, 2010, from
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The following discussion shows what two of my students wrote in reflecting on this movie.  I LOVE the expression “Everything is in our Hands.” We don’t have anything quite like it in English but it must be a direct translation from Russian to mean “It is our responsibility.”

Teacher A: Mr Keating is a real teacher who should teach at school. He gives true opportinities for students to discover themselves and understand who they are. Such teachers are endangered or only a few. Old teachers do not do good for their students and do not let do it “real” teachers. I believe that teachers must be good examples for others and must do their best.

I was so sad when a boy died. Everybody blamed Mr Keating for his death. He just taught that a person should “seize the day” and try to realize one’s own dreams. I hate this situation. Mr Keating wanted to help but other teachers did not love him because he was “strange” while students really loved him. Mr Keating had extraordinary teaching methods which were not the same with the headmaster or other teachers.

Sometimes administration is afraid of genius teachers and tries to get rid of them. But this leads to breakup and braking of educational system.

I hope that something or somebody will survive us and change the system. Because a lot of lives and our future depend on the system of education.

Teacher B: I think those, who are jealous of others are ignorant people(It sounds rude). They are ignorant not because they don’t know what other person knows, but they are ignorant that they do not try to be like this man.

We will survive we will make the changes and add additions for the future of our republic!

Teacher A: Let’s do all our best  Everything is in our hands!

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“Emperors Club” and Teachers’ Comments

We finished watching the last half of the film today titled “Emperors Club” starring Kevin Kline.  It could have been acted by Robin Williams but this casting was much better with Kline as the classical history prof at a boy’s school.  Williams is so “out there” with his humor and character, especially in “Dead Poet’s Society” which we will be showing in a few weeks.

This movie is definitely about “character building” and it is part of the teacher’s job to mold and make each student into a better, more educated person.  Oh, I wish I could have tape recorded all the teachers’ comments from our discussion afterwards.  I told them they had to remember their thoughts and blog about them, so hopefully that will show up tomorrow when we have access to the computer lab.

One teacher said that sometimes fellow teachers are two-faced, they say one thing at teachers’ meetings and do another in the classroom. Another spoke up in response to my not liking the saying “There is no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher.” I said that put too much pressure on the teacher to perform.  She said there was one IT teacher in their university who was a horrible teacher, all the students complained about him.  All he did was use his cell phone during class and do anything but teach.  The judgment by the administration went against the students’ wishes, he was the son of a higher up in government and that was where he was to remain, being ineffective as a teacher.

One seasoned teacher said that she had been told by her administrators that a son of a big wig in government was going to be in her class.  Her superiors told her that she had better pay extra special attention to his needs. She felt offended that she was being told how to conduct her class, it seemed unfair to the other students.  However, when the boy came into her classroom, he was brilliant, he did not need special care, in fact, he was a delight.  However, this works against other teachers to have parents come in and insist that their children are good students.

That is why we started talking about assessment and that you had better show the criteria of how you are grading each student so at least it is well documented if there is any criticism against your teaching. Yes, evaluation of each student is key and we will probably talk more about that tomorrow and into next week.  We discussed when everyone in Kazakhstan can get only a 4 or 5 mark and it is rare that a 1 (being the worst) is given.  Although several in the class admitted they had gotten a 1 or 0 in their past.

Seemed that everyone had something to say on this topic of the good teacher in the movie and what he could have done instead of giving Sedgewick (the rebellious boy) a break.  They sympathized with the teacher when he was humiliated by his former student about that he didn’t have anything to show for his years of teaching. He had invested himself in many boy’s lives while Sedgewick prided himself that he was going to be a great senator like his father had been.  His father may have been a skillful politician who won elections but was he a “public servant?” I think there is a HUGE difference in the two like a “smart student” who knows how to pass tests compared to a student who learns to be a good citizen for the good of his or her country.

Principles and character, Sedgewick scorned his former teacher for having such ideals, no different than Sedgewick’s father had done to Mr. Hundret.  So, even though the diligent professor had wanted to help mold Sedgewick’s character, the father accomplished that instead.  What a poignant moment when Sedgewick told his former teacher that at his father’s death bed he was finally asked to “talk to him.” As soon as Sedgewick was about to speak, his father passed away.  Now as I write this, I’m not even sure that was true. It could have been a story he fabricated to gain his former teacher’s sympathies.  Sedgewick proved himself to be a liar and a cheat, but I don’t want to be a spoiler about this movie for those who haven’t seen it yet.

So many directions one could go with discussing the Emperors Club. 1) Politics and the importance of our democratic history in the U.S. going back to Julius Ceasar and even before him. 2) Parenting and the impact fathers have on their children. 3) Teachers and how they influence affluent children who are not loved or raised well. 4) children who turn out okay despite the grades they were given in school. 5) Teacher/student relationships for good or ill. Something we didn’t talk about was the romance relationship in the story.  Mr. Hundret seemed a proper gentleman and he did end up marrying the woman who encouraged him.  She had been earlier married to a very intelligent man who had gone on to be a professor at Oxford.  However, she got a divorce from this driven man and ended up with Hundret who made history come alive for her.

I have to add that Hundret as portrayed in the movie was not your typical history professor (though I deeply appreciated mine back in high school). He did not bore his students with facts but tried to make his lessons come alive.  He had shown discipline in rowing every day as he had also held up the yearly tradition of the Julius Ceasar competition. The boys in his class competed by knowing the facts of western civilization history.  He was very old school. In fact, Hundret was passed over when there was a promotion for him to become the school’s headmaster.  He was valued as a teacher but not as an administrator. Times were changing, they needed someone who had a sense of the bottomline.

The irony picks up there but again I don’t want to spoil the movie for those who have not seen it before.  I highly recommend it because it shows that sometimes cheaters and liars do seemingly get ahead in life. Sadly they also are empty and have to deal with a conscience.  May that not happen with the students at our new university in Astana, Kazakhstan. Hopefully the teachers will inculcate in each Kazakh student not only a desire to learn but also a reason behind the learning, sans the cheating.  That reason should be to help their fellow citizens in Kazakhstan to get ahead, not the ME FIRST and selfish attitude that Sedgewick played.  If there are too many of those kinds of leaders in any government, it will lead to no real education at all for the populace.  If one wants to rule as a good king or emperor of old, one needs to conquer one’s depraved self and invest time into being an example for others for the good of others.

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“Emperor’s Club” and Student Hymn in Latin

Before the Talent Show last Friday night, there was the Commencement ceremony that heralded in the new freshmen students to our university.  All 500 students were together in unison speaking their pledge against corruption, plagiarism and cheating.  What a proud moment of great beginnings for our new university when some students sang the following hymn in Latin.  (I took Latin for two years in high school a long time ago and we never got to learn this hymn.)  It has been sung and memorized for several thousand years.

Coincidentally this weekend we showed the movie “Emperor’s Club.” The storyline features long-held traditions in a boys school and the classical professor played by Kevin Kline, who is a western civilization’s history teacher. He upheld the western ideals about democracy and our U.S. constitution but there was one recalcitrant student who was an antagonist in the plot.  Interestingly enough, the boy’s father was a senator from West Virginia and didn’t care about a teacher’s job to mold character.  The rude senator cared only that his boy was taught the basics from the textbook, enough to pass and get a diploma.

This week, I’m having my teachers in our professional development class watch the “Emperor’s Club” as well. We are sure to have a good discussion about what happens in the end of the movie and how this topic of honor code and principles relates to Kazakhstan.  I believe that all teachers around the world are meant to be builders of character. So that means that teachers should be principled and uphold the oaths and pledges that are made for good and not evil.

I would hope our new university students will have their characters molded into good, Kazakh citizens in the next four years they are at our campus. Also 25 years from now these same Kazakh students in their respective professions will hopefully have a conscience about the actions and behaviors they display in their positions of power.  Yes, I mean lessons learned beyond just the textbook knowledge, enough to pass the test.  Read on what these Latin students of old knew to be true:

Latin English
Gaudeamus igitur 

Juvenes dum sumus.

Post jucundam juventutem

Post molestam senectutem

Nos habebit humus.

Let us rejoice therefore 

While we are young.

After a pleasant youth

After a troubling old age

The soil will have us.

Ubi sunt qui ante nos 

In mundo fuere?

Vadite ad superos

Transite in inferos

Hos si vis videre.

Where are they who before us 

Were in the world?

Go to the heavens

Cross over into hell

If you wish to see them.

Vita nostra brevis est 

Brevi finietur.

Venit mors velociter

Rapit nos atrociter

Nemini parcetur.

Our life is brief 

Soon it will end.

Death comes quickly

Snatches us cruelly

No one shall be spared.

(lit. “It shall be spared to nobody.”)

Vivat academia! 

Vivant professores!

Vivat membrum quodlibet;

Vivant membra quaelibet;

Semper sint in flore.

Long live the academy! 

Long live the professors!

Long live each student;

Long live the whole fraternity;

May they always be in their prime!

Vivant omnes virgines 

Faciles, formosae.

Vivant et mulieres

Tenerae, amabiles,

Bonae, laboriosae.

Long live all girls, 

Easy [and] beautiful!

Long live [mature] women also,

Tender, lovable,

Good, [and] hard-working.

Vivat et respublica 

et qui illam regit.

Vivat nostra civitas,

Maecenatum caritas

Quae nos hic protegit.

Long live the state as well 

And he who rules it!

Long live our city

[And] the charity of benefactors

Which protects us here!

Pereat tristitia, 

Pereant osores.

Pereat diabolus,

Quivis antiburschius

Atque irrisores.

Let sadness perish! 

Let haters perish!

Let the devil perish!

And also the opponents of the fraternities

And their mockers!

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“It’s a Dog’s Life” – Easter Weekend Recap

p41101981Khristos vos Kres!” Good Friday was a BEAUTIFUL spring day!!! So different from what transpired 2,000 years ago, a dismal day Christians choose to remember and I decided to fast to be reminded of the cross. (Horrid flashbacks of Mel Gibson’s horribly bloody movie “The Passion” reappear in my mind) After a morning class with my students and being interviewed by a former student in journalism with a big camera taping it, time for a much needed walk down hill to the Green Bazaar. My favorite places to shop (by necessity because of my meager budget) are the Second Hand stores just north of the Green Bazaar and I discovered there is a new one that just sprouted up. I bought several tablecloths, one is a perfect linen one for only $6. I found a dress my color and then as I was checking out the fourth store, my friend Brenda called. She wanted me to join her for pizza at Ramstor. I declined but once I finished shopping I hopped on a bus and told her I’d be there in 15 minutes to meet up with her after all. Once we met, we went shopping for foodstuffs at Ramstor and then parted ways. Good to catch up even if for just 20 minutes.

Walked up my five flights of stairs to dump off my loot from shopping and walk downhill to our university where the KELT play was about to begin at 7:00. “David and Lisa” had been much advertised. With a busy week, I hadn’t figured out who would go with me, so I went solo figuring I’d meet up with someone I’d know. I was pleasantly surprised to see the heavy marketing paid off, the Great Hall was almost full and I seated myself in the fourth row in order to hear the actors’ lines better. A cast of 20, mostly Kazakh university students or other nonnative speakers necessitates being close to stage in order to not miss any words. I’ve learned this from past experience of attending other KELT productions.

Other native speakers of English who are professionals in the city of Almaty and who enjoy community theater were also in the cast of characters for “David and Lisa.” However, the articulation and volume of most all actors was very good. I thought the best job was done by an Australian lady who sounded VERY American in her role as a doting, overbearing mother. Also, Elina who played the lead role of Lisa did a superb job, she was supposed to sound nonsensical in her rhyming sentences and her boundless energy was phenomenal. She had split personalities, one that was hyperactive Lisa, the other was morose Muriel who was gloomy, almost scary. The other lead who played David did a great job too, I think he had the most lines to memorize.

What was funny about the start of the evening was as I was shutting off my cellphone before the performance I noticed I had missed one call. It was my French friend Benedicte who lives near me. She too had decided to go to the play on her own at the last minute but I didn’t know that so when I returned her call I told her where I was. She said, “turn around.” I did and then five rows back she waved. After intermission we sat together and watched the second half of the intense play. The play ended well and so Benedicte and I walked up the hill together talking about the amazingly complicated play we had just witnessed. She had been fasting too, so we both ended our Good Friday on a good note.

Saturday I had invited the opthamologist’s daughter over to find out about her Kazakh family background. (tomorrow I’ll share what I learned from Leila) Before that I had bought an Easter lily for Brenda whom I’d see the next day for our Easter meal at her home. I then prepared Mexican tacos for my students who were coming for my final “make-up” class Saturday evening and we watched “Emperor’s Club” with English subtitles. We had a lot to discuss afterwards because it was about teacher-students relationships and integrity, character and honor codes. This movie deals with cheating and dishonesty which we unfortunately have to deal with all the time at our university.

Sunday morning was a very special Easter service where we sang all the usual Wesley hymns starting with “Up from the Grave He Arose!” An extra treat was having an African American woman, who is a professional jazz singer, do a rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” The worship team had some added brass, a sax and drums along with the guitar. Peyton’s sermon was wonderful and I’ll long remember the story about his wife’s Uncle Billy. At the beginning he told of Uncle Billy’s part of the D-Day operation in WWII where he was the pilot of one of the many American boats that brought Americans to French soil to fight and die for freedom. However, Uncle Billy’s boat was bombed even before they got to shore and recovering all the dead bodies, they were all put in a morgue. By the end of the sermon, Peyton finished the story about Uncle Billy waking up in the midst of all these dead bodies, having only been knocked unconscious. He was spared, he revived to live his life. Jesus whose death we honor and memorialize on Good Friday was dead, dead, dead. What we celebrate on Easter Sunday is that He is alive! It’s not a dog’s life after all but God’s LIFE!p4120213


What fun to go with my two university friends to finish off my Easter weekend at Brenda and Thom’s place. I played her piano, ate good food and mingled with new people and “old” friends over a ham, an actual sit down meal with carrot cake made by Julia to top it off. Thanks Molly and Zoey (dog’s names) for having us. It’s a dog’s life.


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