I watched Finding Dory with my wife and kids last Sunday. It was a fun sequel to Pixar’s 2003 hit, Finding Nemo. This time, the focus was on their quirky, dorky companion with short-term memory loss named Dory (who incidentally is not a Dory fish but a Pacific Regal Blue Tang).
Because of her condition, Dory would often get herself in trouble. When her short-term memory loss kicked in, she would totally forget what she was supposed to do that moment, be distracted by something else and then get sidetracked, lost, or in danger. She was the anti-thesis of Nemo’s father, Marlin, who was always pragmatic, organized and liked to plan things carefully. Marlin was obviously not a fan of Dory’s spontaneity and impulsiveness.
At one point in the story, Marlin and Nemo found themselves seemingly trapped in a certain situation. They needed to get out and they needed to do it fast. For all of Marlin’s practicality, he could not find a way out.
And then Nemo asked, “What would Dory do?”
That question let them see the problem in a new light, and they suddenly saw a solution. It was risky and dangerous, but it was exactly the thing Dory would have done. So they took the risk and were able to extract themselves out of their current predicament. Over the course of the movie, they would find themselves in other traps, but always, asking “What would Dory do?” would see them through.
My wife, the more level-headed of us two, worried about what kind of lesson this movie was imparting to the kids. Should we then throw planning and thinking ahead out of the window? Well, that’s taking it to the extreme and I wouldn’t go that far.
I think that careful planning as well as creative spontaneity each have their place in one’s life. Too much of either can make you too boring or too unpredictable or too crazy. There has to be some sort of balance between the two.
When I was a high school teacher, I would drive my supervisors up the wall because I didn’t want to do lesson plans. The lesson plan format that DepEd had recommended was too rigid and too cookie-cutter-like for my tastes. For me, educating kids has never been about making “standard-issue” products like those that come out of a factory. It has always been about making them think, think and think. Think out of the box. Think creatively. Think stupidly. Think funnily. Think.
So I had like a general plan and goal in my head of what I would like to achieve, but I didn’t want to plan out the specifics because I wanted to dynamically adjust to the class, to see what they were ready for and what direction the learning would take. Sadly, that didn’t quite fit with what DepEd thought was a “proper” lesson plan.
I was fortunate to have a very forward-thinking boss early in my teaching career, Ms. Franelli Pableo, who now serves as Director of Davao Christian High School V. Mapa Campus. She was then the High School Principal. I would often hang out in her office, sometimes to vent out my frustrations, and sometimes just to share a funny story or two about the students. But she knew what I thought about lesson plans and she would just tell me, “Don’t worry too much about it. I’ve seen you in class and I know you know what you’re doing.” So I ended up enjoying some creative freedom without being completely tied down to the rigidity of lesson plans.
I had a “What would Dory do” moment when one summer she asked me, “Would you like to teach world history?”
Me? Teach history? I was a Computer Science major teaching English literature so I guess the idea didn’t sound so strange. But I had a natural love affair with literature that I didn’t have for history. I said, “But I don’t know anything about world history.”
And she said, “I have the textbook here. Just pick it up and start reading. Come on, help me out here. It’s almost school opening time, the previous teacher just resigned and I haven’t found a suitable replacement. If you accept, I know the kids will at least be in good hands.”
And that’s how I ended up with one year in my resume where I taught history. It was a wild and wacky experience for me and some of my kids thought so too, as it was probably the only history class they had where all tests and quizzes were open books and notes. I also managed to have them watch Schindler’s List, Stephen Spielberg’s award-winning movie about the holocaust. It was R-rated and I let a bunch of 14-year olds watch it. Processing it afterwards was fun as well.
Yeah, it was something Dory would have done.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.