As soon as the movie started, my wife pointed out a young man seated one row in front and about ten seats to the left of using his iPhone to record the movie! Despite having his face almost pressed against his phone, clearly his camera was on and the movie was on his screen.
I was furious!
First, the light from the camera was distracting. Second, I’ve heard about these guys–these pirates—who film movies on the opening weekend and sell them on the internet. I remember Kramer and Jerry doing such a thing on an episode of Seinfeld many years back.
I was so angry, both at the distracting light from the young man’s phone and his audacity to commit a crime in such a conspicuous way, that I went to the lobby to report him to the manager. Of course, when I came back to the auditorium the young man had put his phone away.
I knew his temptation would get the best of him, so I sat waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
And about ten minutes later, when the movie for the second time was using subtitles, the young man turned his camera on again and nearly pressed his face against his screen. I couldn’t believe it, and actually considered throwing a Junior Mint at him!
And then my wife whispered to me, “I think he has a vision problem. I don’t think he can see the subtitles.”
It suddenly became very clear to me that was exactly what he was doing. He was trying not to distract the rest of us in the auditorium, and he was staring at the image on his phone so he could read the subtitles and just enjoy the film.
Suddenly the light coming from his phone didn’t seem as distracting to me.
And just as suddenly I felt like an idiot.
And when about ten minutes later a police officer came into the auditorium to ask him to turn off his phone I felt even more like an idiot.
But the young man’s father told the police officer what was happening. And the police officer apparently told the manager, who returned a few minutes later with some sort of magnifying glasses for the young man to wear the rest of the show.
And for the rest of the show I sat thinking how they should really have some way for people with disabilities to have a pleasurable viewing experience and make accommodations for them and so on and so forth.
But really I sat thinking about how ashamed I was to rush to judgment on this young man, to condemn him in my mind before I really had any idea what was going on.
And then I thought, that happens in classrooms sometimes, doesn’t it?
A student is rude. Or disruptive. Or doesn’t do his work. Or smarts off. Or falls asleep. Or is distracted.
And so often our initial reaction is disgust or frustration or anger. We want to shake the students until they sit up straight and shut their mouths and do their work!
But often the students who cause the most anxiety are actually the ones who need our love the most.
Maybe their parents are going through a divorce. Maybe they are hungry. Maybe they are caring for siblings while parents are working. Maybe there are drugs or neglect or abuse or any other number of dysfunctions going on in the home.
You have heard it been said that we must always be kind because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Not just your family or friends or strangers in movie theaters.
In your classroom.
Saturday reminded me that it is easy to come to judgment–that it is easy to decide that somebody is bad or worthless or lazy–without ever really knowing their story. In other words, don’t write the review before you watch the entire movie.
As professional educators, let’s do everything in our power to avoid falling into that trap. Talk to kids. Get to know them. Try to understand what battles they are fighting. And then, when you do understand, follow Maya Angelou’s advice and be the rainbow in their cloud.