Keene State College students had a fantastic opportunity to immerse themselves in their future careers at the Monadnock International Film Festival (MONIFF). KSC students assisted the festival staff in running smoothly while enjoying watching their short film play out on screen.
Mr. Sedaris, an inexperienced college writing instructor, takes an unorthodox approach to his classes. When his students question his methods of instruction, Mr. Sedaris demonstrates his lack of expertise with every question raised against his plans.
Fear of Inadequacy
Sedaris spends much of the film focusing on his inability to connect with his students and fearing they’ll soon discover he is an impostor. While he comes up with some engaging classroom activities, he struggles to maintain control, and his jokes often result in laughter that disturbs other classes in the building.
He is unprepared for his new job and becomes overwhelmed with its duties. Finding out that one of his colleagues, Hugh, possesses a higher IQ only adds fuel to his flame of inadequacy, and arguments arise among coworkers over minor matters such as a smudged mirror or when it is best to pour his coffee pot before pouring.
The story also chronicles an ongoing family feud between Sedaris’s sisters. While their relationships had always been tenuous, things worsen when one receives an inheritance from a lottery winner and refuses to use any of it to improve her situation despite possessing all the funds needed for improvement. Tiffany seems content to remain poor despite having the means available to her and refuses to purchase anything beyond the necessities of life.
Sedaris struggles with his teaching abilities and speech impediments that hinder others from understanding him clearly. His use of nonsense words such as “palicmkrexis” and “fiuscrzsa ticiwelmun” demonstrate this difficulty communicating clearly.
Fear of Failure
Fear of failure can cripple even your most ambitious goals, immobilizing them from being accomplished. But conquering fear can be easier than you think, particularly if you redefine failure as something positive: rather than seeing it as a threat, see it as something to learn from and move past.
Sedaris recounts in his essay his experiences teaching a writing workshop, with only two weeks of preparation time provided by its creator. Unfortunately, this person backed out at the last minute, leaving Sedaris feeling unprepared and inexperienced; on his first day in class, he eagerly showcased his knowledge of literary works only to be disappointed by students who appeared disinterested in discussing writing or literature.
He attempts to establish himself as an authoritative figure by assigning soap opera predictions but quickly loses credibility after one student predicts that one Life to Live character will die of choking on a sandwich. At this point, Sedaris realizes he’s not an effective teacher and that his methods don’t work. KSC education major Devlyn Bent attended “The Learning Curve” screening at Colonial Theatre and identified with Sedaris’ struggles.
Fear of Authority
Sedaris becomes increasingly anxious that his students will discover his fraudulence as the semester unfolds. To assuage this anxiety, Sedaris increasingly asserts his authority by getting up frequently to open and close doors himself – believing this gives him control of his classroom.
This desire to take charge is apparent in his class assignments, which he crafts without input from the department. One position requires students to write predictions on soap operas they’re watching, thinking it would effectively teach writing skills. When one of his students confronted him on this practice, he claimed he wasn’t a traditional teacher who needed their approval to succeed – instead, he insisted that he was different and didn’t require their consent to be successful.
Sedaris often struggles to strike an appropriate balance when expressing his ideas and opinions, sometimes blurring between fun and cruelty. At breakfast in a hotel, he slanders a woman who sets down her food to feed her terrier by calling her “the whore” and a “jism-soaked hag.”
Sedaris uses humor to illustrate serious themes while staying grounded; his approach shows his audience how they can find comfort even when feeling down about themselves.
Fear of Being a Fraud
This story is an adaptation of an essay by New York Times-bestselling author David Sedaris. After graduating from school, Sedaris received an unexpected offer of teaching employment at the art institute where he had studied; although unqualified due to no teaching experience and having no published works to his name, he took up this teaching position.
He’s uncertain of his students or their responses, unsure of what clothing and materials he should bring with him to class, as well as being concerned with conveying knowledge to students in an effective way.
Sedaris also believes he is degrading the profession of teaching by engaging his students casually; therefore, he attempts to treat each lesson like his colleagues would approach a Shakespearean play or James Joyce novel. For example, one assignment asked them to write letters to their imprisoned mothers.
This short film stars actor Matthew Gray Gubler, best known for his role as Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds. Gubler’s performance and story combine to make this short movie so captivating, making it perfect viewing for KSC education majors as it shows that teaching doesn’t always need to be taken so seriously.