Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 18- Robin Williams

THESIS: As I wrote the questions and blog for this and looked at Robin's most memorable roles one thing kept popping up-These were characters going against the grain to find ways to be true to themselves. They are different, the weird kids, outsiders who are ok with being on the outside. I'd never realized that before and am starting to realize just how deeply his movies must have influenced me. One more thing to thank and love him for.

Robin Williams was, to me, the ultimate Weird Kid. He was out of his mind in the best possible way, kinetic to the point of explosion, and faster than a ferret on angel dust equipped with a warp drive. He was, to be cliche, a true original. There was no one else like him before, and we'll never seen anyone like him again.
I had a different topic planned for today but that can be pushed backwards a week. We need to talk about the brilliant, side-splitting, and ultimately heart-breaking Robin Williams. His work, and how he influences teachers across the world.
I'm young enough to have missed the early madness live and have had to catch it on albums and video like "A Night at the Met" and Mork and Mindy. I was probably first introduced to him the way a lot of us were- through ALADIN. And then I followed him through MRS. DOUBTFIRE, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, PATCH ADAMS, DEATH TO SMOOCHY* and HOOK, going backwards and memorizing huge chunks of GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM in the process. To this day THE BIRDCAGE is one of my favorite comedies of all time. When he would release a new special, like Weapons of Self Destruction, my sides would ache and I wouldn't be able to remember half of what he said because I was laughing too hard at the other half. So many words. So much brilliance being fired in every direction.
Robin was either the best or worst interview you've ever seen, depending on what your goal for an interview is. If you want to be entertained he's the best. If you want a straight answer to any question he was terrible. Watch and part of his Inside the Actor's Studio interview (YouTube doesn't have the full one any more). Free association doesn't begin to describe how his mind worked. He called it, "voluntary Tourette syndrome." And I think we have students like that. I know I do. Kids who say things that are obviously part of a much longer conversation that they have been having all day, which you are supposed to be aware of but aren't. I can't imagine that Robin was an easy student to have. No comedian is, I'm sure, but I think we can all agree that he would have had even the most patient of us pulling our hair out and sending home letters, "Dear Mrs. Williams, I am trying very hard to help Robin focus, but he's very...spirited. Please speak with him at home about the value of paying attention and not calling out every time a thought pops in to his head." Shows what we know.
Teachers love to quote his role as teacher John Keating in DEAD POET'S SOCIETY because he played the kind of teacher a lot of us want to be and managed to reach the students in a way we want to reach our own. I personally gravitated to what he said at the end of MRS DOUBTFIRE (not this clip, but this is how I want to teach a lot of the time, even though it would drive the calm kids crazy), a quote which I can't find anywhere online but amounted to, "Don't talk down to children, just talk to them." That is perfect.
I could go on and on, but rather than do that let's just leave it at I loved Robin Williams. I wish I could operate at half his speed. I wish we hadn't lost him.
But even though he's gone, we still have our memories of him and the laughs and inspiration he has provided. Let's use his light to guide our teaching.

If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, please call this number. 1-800-273-8255

*SMOOCHY is darkly hilarious. Completely underrated film.

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