Six Reasons Every Teacher (and Reformer) Should See Inside Out

I am not the type to see movies in the theater but I recently took our family out to see Inside Out for Father’s Day. I have always been a fan of Pixar. The company really seems to have moved beyond the limitations of 2D animation in the same way film moved from silent slapstick and melodramas to more complex color films. Their films are both stylistically and narratively three dimensional. Pixar has been exploring the possibilities of how animation as a medium could expand the film genre for a long time. My daughter explained Pixar’s narrative brainstorming progression like this, “It’s like Pixar said,  What if toys had emotions? What if fish had emotions? What if emotions had emotions?!”

Inside Out is spot on amazing in how it makes psychology and emotional intelligence understandable. This film is especially important for parents who care about all kids and all kids. I think my favorite scene, and I hope not to give away too much, is when the mother, father, and daughter sit at the dinner table and you get to see the emotional interactions that bring forth their verbal response. This interaction truly captured how I see the complexity of student-teacher interactions in a classroom and why being a teacher is so hard.

The world could learn a lot about teaching from this film. Pay no attention to the negative portrayal of the teacher in the film. That is a separate blog post. But, here are six takeaways from Inside Out.

  1. Emotions are the engine for the hard drive of memory. Every meaningful pedagogical approach in the history of the field has utilized this in some way. From the fear of retribution in Massachusetts Bay puritan schools, to the kinder gentler common schools of Horace Mann to the passion driven education and project based approaches of today. It has been a constant struggle to move learning from the brains RAM (random access memory) to the hard drive. Emotional attachment to experience is what makes ideas stick.
  2. Students have core memories that make up the islands of their personality. They are formed very young and influence development for their entire lives. These islands can be built and destroyed through emotional interactions with others. Islands of family, friends, trust, make us who we are and not seeing how these islands influence learning is like trying to get from point A to point B without looking at a map.
  3. We are constantly creating core experiences that influence our emotional landscape. It is strong emotions, and our environment’s contribution to these, that make us who we are. When a child fails, are they kicked or lifted up by their parent, teacher, or peer? This is how we learn. This is also how we color our experiences for the rest of our lives.
  4. Great teachers are often operate in a world in which they do not, in fact, can not interact based purely on emotion. At the same time, they are trying to get students to connect to content emotionally. They use stories, demonstrations, creative problem posing to get students to create emotional understanding of their experiences.
  5. Every experience has emotional color and that color can change based on context. We can remember our 4th grade classroom as warm and loving or the first place we were embarrassed publicly. Learning how to transform emotional understanding of our experiences is possibly the only way to empower students with challenging experiences to create islands of personality that will help them be successful.
  6. Inside Out illustrates how people, all people, often interact emotionally instead of rationally. Parents, teacher, students, everybody struggles with this and it is what makes us human. This is why, when students enter classrooms frustrated, sad, disappointed we have to try to understand and work through these feelings because they affect emotions. This is how teachers change the color of their students experiences.

If you are a teacher, if you care about kids, if you have kids, if you want to make education better for kids go see Inside Out. Then let’s have a conversation about what it means to be a good teacher or even a good human being. What will make kids care about their experiences at school to make learning an island in their emotional landscape.

Image: From PixarPost http://www.pixarpost.com/2014/11/inside-out-character-profiles-anger-joy.html

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