Thursday, November 08, 2012

brooklyn castle

Last week I took my schoolteacher husband to see this documentary about a Title 1 public school in Brooklyn nationally recognized for its chess team. Really, I just wanted to have a date with the hub--you know when you get that urge to hold your guy's hand in the dark? It was one of those.

Kirk has been having a really crappy year at school. His district is operating on a skeleton budget, and over the summer the administrators played Pick Up Sticks with the staff in a desperate attempt to balance a totally out-of-whack fiscal situation. You know, the "cliff" everyone's talking about. He has over 40 kids in a few classes. He's teaching a grade he hasn't taught since his practicum days some 35 years ago while grade school teachers have been transferred to high schools faced with subjects they are ill-equipped to teach. I could go on and on, but I'm going to stop there, because this isn't a rant. No, it's a love note.

What makes Brooklyn Castle such a satisfying film has to do with the humanity that pours out of kids and teachers on the screen. The documentary covers more than a year at the school, and follows several students through the ups and downs of competition and the realities of an economy where social programs and education are perennially on the chopping block.

 The filmmaker does a masterful job of bringing out the kids as they really are. Capturing the essence and spectrum of adolescence. The hopes. Pitfalls. Fear of failure. And the backdrop of dedicated teachers and administrators pushing that rock uphill during a perilous time in our economy makes the movie all the more stunning.

Kirk and I both teared up. Sitting there in an audience of four, quietly holding hands and rooting for these kids, for the school. And what a week to be watching such a film, right? The hurricane. The election. So much at stake.

The common denominator of the last seven days, I think, is love. When human beings work together, striving to accomplish that thing just outside the grasp, it's infectious.

What has inspired you lately?


  1. Kindness. Kindness has inspired me lately. The difference a small kindness can make in a life makes me compulsively kind and alternately angry at the lack of peripheral vision in others.
    That the theater was not full does not worry me. I've seen what one person can do, so knowing that there were four of you in there inspires me, too.


    1. So true, right? Moving through the world from a place of love instead of pissed-offness takes less energy and pays back multi-fold.

      There is a time for anger and sorrow, but I'm really trying hard to not get locked down there. Kindness. Always a good thing.

  2. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Tell Kirk not to give up! It might seem so difficult but keep fighting, his kids need a dedicated teacher. There have been some years when I thought that running the team was just too difficult and was so psychologically draining but then I realized that in some cases the chess program was the thing that kids looked most forward to when coming to school. So we push on. I am glad you loved the movie and I hope it puts a little wind in Kirk's sails.

    John Galvin
    IS 318

    1. Thanks for this, John. And thanks for doing what you do with and for the kids.

  3. The resilience of my husband and the students at his school are inspiring so I can imagine that this film would be, as well.

    Kirk's situation sounds very much like Doug's. When it looks impossible to keep going, it's the students who keep them going.

    1. Here's to math man and science guy!

  4. I'm afraid to watch this clip because I know I'm going to cry. But I'm going to watch it anyway, and I'm going to have to see the documentary, too. I love this. All of it.


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