We care about our students, so when we think that media makers may be manipulating them or doing them harm, it's natural for us to react with concern or even anger. But if we let these feelings block our ability to listen to our students or to respect their opinions (especially when they differ from our own), we lose an important opportunity to connect.
Here's how you can retain your opinions without letting them get in the way of engaging your students:
- Keep in mind that "The Merchants of Cool" is about teen culture. Just as you would treat a student's ethnic, racial, or religious culture with respect, approach their media culture with respect.
- Rather than convey a pre-determined conclusion, i.e., telling students what the message is, focus on giving students the skills they need to interpret messages for themselves.
- Include potential solutions or actions as part of your discussion. Lessons that stop at identification of a problem tend to leave students feeling cynical rather than skeptical or inquisitive.
- Because everyone interprets what they see and hear through the lens of their own experience, the more different you are from your students, the more likely it is that you will interpret media messages differently. So be prepared to encounter opinions that differ from your own and to recognize that multiple interpretations can be valid.
- Find out what has touched your students by opening your discussion with very broad questions, e.g., "What struck you most about this film?" or "What will you tell your friends about this film when you see them at lunch?" or "In one word, describe how you felt while watching this film. Explain your answer."
The questions below can be used to help students analyze the media they see and hear. They assume that all media is a "story."
Articles containing additional questions and strategies for deconstructing media, as well as general principles of media literacy can be found at:
- Who is the "storyteller"?
- What techniques are the "storytellers" using to tell their "story"?
- Why are they telling this particular "story" (what is their motive)?
- Who is the "story" for (who is the target audience)? Why is the "story" being told to that audience?
- Is the story accurate, fair, and complete? If not, what information or perspectives are absent and why were they left out?