Last Wednesday, I went on an errand off-campus, and when I returned, a contraption was being set up on one side of the playground. Two trussed metal beams supported a large white screen that slowly unfurled. I recognized the beams from our maintenance room, where the sounds of saws had filled the air for the past week, presumably as our staff built the giant contraption.
I walked around the screen curiously, wondering what it would be used for. Then, suddenly, something in my mind clicked. When the week first started, a teacher had excitedly told me that we would be watching a movie on Wednesday night. At the time, I thought that every class would be watching the movie in their own classrooms, like the seventh graders do every Thursday night during the teacher meeting. I had assumed wrong; everyone on campus would have the chance to gather together and watch it on a big screen, like a drive-in theater (except it was more like a walk-in theater, and we parked our chairs, not cars).
Soon enough, as the sun was setting, every student and teacher started to head over to the playground. One teacher gave directions on the loudspeaker to create some sort of order. Once everyone was settled, with an evening snack in hand, and all the lights were off, and the sky became a thick, dark blanket sprinkled with a dozen specks of glitter, the movie began.
We watched Dangal, an inspirational, biographical story about two girls who become successful wrestlers in a culture where boys are deemed to be stronger than girls. The actors and actresses all spoke Hindi, and the subtitles were in Chinese, so I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on all the time, but by using the context of the characters’ actions and tones and my students’ reactions, I was soon engulfed into the movie’s story. It was a cool and windy night, but because we all sat so close together, our body heat created a cozy refuge from the chill. We gasped and cheered and clapped in unison. And as the night wore off, and the hours of the night turned from 8:00, to 9:00, to 10:00, and our eyes drooped because it was past our bedtimes, we leaned on each other for support.
After the movie had finished, all of us went our separate ways, returning our chairs our classrooms. I had thought that our peaceful moment of united repose from the craziness of studying and life’s troubles had passed and felt a sense of melancholy. But the next day, I learned that maybe once a month, we will gather to watch a new movie together on that same big white screen. I can’t wait to see what movie we’ll watch next and how this new semi-weekly activity will positively affect our students’ emotional and mental well-being.