25 June 2009

Teachers Are Role Models

I am a teacher and have absolutely no problem at all accepting the fact that I am a role model. I have worked with junior high, high school, and college students. While teaching high school students, I notice they are excited about life, but some are unenthusiastic about school. For teenagers, friends are essential. One has to talk a certain way, listen to the “right” music, and in some cases, be a rebel. Of course, not all students think this way, thank goodness; however, in general this is the case.

Listening to students, they are in school for one of two reasons: they want to be there or they have been told they better be there. Because of this, teachers have the golden opportunity that no other professionals have to shape the future. Modeling is something instructors from pre-school through university can do to give students a more positive outlook on life. English (writing and literature) is the subject matter I teach, but in the process I am teaching manners, consistency, integrity, and so many other qualities that I am not even aware are getting through to the students.

In short, I am establishing the importance and significance teachers have in students’ lives. Teachers are counselors and can even be friends. Students feel safe asking teachers about something they would like knowing more about, and trust the educator will have a helpful response. Some students can easily talk with a teacher when they are afraid to share their pain or concern with a parent or other adult.

In an episode of 21 Jump Street, (see previous post) a high school girl confided in a male teacher. She felt so safe and close to him that she was comfortable going to his home for help with homework. In a sense, she discovered a new friend and personal tutor.

Unfortunately, the teacher took advantage of the young girl and started having sexual relations with her. While watching this episode, I did not want to blame the girl. She was easily swayed by an adult, not just any adult, but a teacher. Someone she was probably taught to admire, trust, and respect.

The 21 Jump Street writers did not set the story up in the same way as I because when viewers are brought into this story, the young girl is already pregnant and absolutely terrified. The Jump Street police officers were not able to get the teen girl to open up. They persistently asked questions, investigated, and pleaded until they discovered other girls who had experienced the same abuse from the same teacher. The trusted adult, who chose to work with young people, deceived and disrespected them.

This story was difficult to watch because of the statutory rape and realism. The teenage girl’s fear kept her withdrawn and literally scared. She probably never trusted another teacher after that. Or sadly, she probably never trusted another human being again.

Teachers should use their position to educate, instill positive attitudes, and encourage students to be the best they can be. It is unfortunate when some teachers use their position to take advantage of young people who are forming opinions about life, trying to figure out who they are, and discovering what goals they want to accomplish. Teachers are role models. (Yesterday I shared that 21 Jump Street was an issue-oriented and ground-breaking television series. Today’s post is an example of those traits.)

24 June 2009

Remembering 21 Jump Street

The television series that made a big impact on me when I was a teenager was 21 Jump Street. I was a high school junior, and one Sunday evening at 7:00 I stumbled upon the show. I remember being immediately drawn into the story. “Officer Hanson” was working undercover as a preppy, rich teen so he could bust preppy, rich teens. I knew I had seen “Hanson” before but could not place him. Half way through the episode I realized the actor was Johnny Depp from the film A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. (It was 1987.) I thought it was great that the good-looking guy ended up on such an intriguing television show.

21 Jump Street always managed to handle serious issues in an appropriate and entertaining manner. The first two seasons of the series provided compelling drama, but viewers were almost always guaranteed a happy ending. I was thrilled when I read an article which discussed how the 21 Jump Street cast wanted to start doing episodes that were not neatly packaged, did not have happy endings, and were open-ended. I trusted the cast was aware that viewers were smart enough to use their own brains to figure out what the stories were trying to say. I personally appreciated this and would like to take this opportunity to thank the cast for speaking up and the producers for complying.

As a result, 21 Jump Street became an issue-oriented program. It was no longer baby-faced cops going undercover at local high schools to investigate drug pushing and abuse. The adult officers started going undercover at universities and dealing with hate and date rape crimes. These were very serious themes, and the 21 Jump Street writers always handled them with care by showing consequences or sometimes the reality that there are unfortunately some individuals who manage to escape immediate consequences. I was one of the smart viewers who appreciated this and believed that some where along life’s winding road, those individuals would be dealt with. I embraced the open-ended storylines because I made up my own conclusions, based on my beliefs and outlook on life.

When a viewer can do this, television is good! This is certainly my opinion, of course, but I am not a lazy viewer. I do not think an unprepared observer could have enjoyed watching 21 Jump Street as much as I did. Having to think may become too laborious for the quick-fix, uninvolved viewer.

Whether one saw 21 Jump Street as simple entertainment, or as ground-breaking television, it is still worthy of applause for tackling such issues as substance abuse, rape, racism, bigotry, and AIDS. It was my favorite television show of its time, and frankly, I cannot think of any other program like it. It is truly a blessing no one has copied the incomparable, original, educational series: 21 Jump Street.

15 June 2009

Roseville Library Book Signing

On Saturday, June 27th I will be participating in Roseville Public Library’s Local Author Event from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Downtown Roseville Library, located at 225 Taylor Street in Roseville, California. I will sign and read my book, Growing Pains – 10 short stories about growing up, and there will be a Q & A session.

If you do not already have a copy of Growing Pains – 10 short stories about growing up, Barnes & Noble will be selling copies at the event. If you are unable to attend the event, you may purchase Growing Pains from Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Growing-Pains-short-stories-rowing/dp/0615240186/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1224727343&sr=1-1. Thank you for your support; I look forward to meeting you.

Update for June 2009

I am happy it is Summer Break-time. Although it is still Spring, school is out for Summer. This is the time of year when I take a break from teaching and spend more time writing. I currently have a few projects in front of me, and want to share them with you.

To begin, last summer I wrote a screenplay titled, AFRAID FOR YOUR LIFE, and am in development for it right now. What that means is I, as director and producer, am figuring out how much the budget will be and contacting key talent (cast and crew) who I think will be suitable for the film. So far things are moving along well, and some very talented people are ready to be a part of it.

Second, I am writing another script for a project I am looking forward to doing with two other filmmakers. I do not have many details to share, but wanted to let you know this is something I am working on right now. Third, I have started two other scripts–one is a mystery and the other is a drama–and hoping I have time to complete them in the near future.

Lastly, I am still writing my column for Hollywood Scriptwriter magazine (http://www.hollywoodscriptwriter.com). Our next issue will be available (via online subscription) in July. And, of course, I am taking time out for fun.


My new novel, THE TWO SISTERS, is available for purchase:  The Two Sisters by Terri Dawn Arnold . The story has crime, drama, and mystery. L...