Middle School 243
- Official Website
- Contemporary Issues, Docutainment, Reality, and Culture
“Middle School 243” is an intimate, face to face, up-close exploration of a high-performing, public school that requires 10-14 year olds to collaborate in almost all classes — and somehow it actually works. Shot in the years just before the current COVID19 experiment in remote learning, this rare window into the daily life of teachers and tweens is a chaotic and glorious reminder of what school can be.
- Show treatment
Buckle-up for one year in a school that students describe as chaotic, stressful, weird, and a place they are profoundly sad to leave after four years. As the year begins, we meet our ensemble cast of 5th-8th graders, their intrepid teachers, and the octogenarian principal preparing for another intense year of adolescent drama. Fifth graders are dropped off by parents, and older kids arrive by scooter and skateboard. Inside, teachers and students are moving in a chaotic swirl of activity, like ants in a giant ant hill. All working towards one goal but not in any way that makes sense to the naked eye.
The 5th graders are disoriented, wondering “How will I ever learn how to learn here?” The 6th and 7th graders are riding a tsunami of puberty. The 8th graders – alternately intimidating and inspiring to the newcomers – swagger with expertise, and face the future by looking back at the younger students they are leading and teaching. Over the year, struggles to navigate academic and social challenges will be very real for all the students. Teachers will be reassuring touch stones for them as they journey through puberty, evolve from concrete to abstract thinking, and move from family-centered life to participants in a larger circle of society.
The central conflict of the film is early adolescence itself, and the story line is the emotional journey of one school year. Adolescent drama starts each day at 8:30 am and officially ends at 3:20 pm, but educators take home big questions each night about how to empower their students to stay connected to their true selves, and become more skilled at working with others. Parents wonder – hearing only tidbits – what precisely is happening inside the school. Kids jealously guard the secrets of their independent life away from home, as they do the signature tween work of building “a second family” centered around their friends. In this chaos, the students find order and they own it.
“They are a fantastic age to educate. They aren’t jaded yet. They are excited about learning. And if you can catch them and hold that, you’re hoping they will stay that way for life.” Elaine Schwartz, founder/principal
- in post-production
- Camilla Calamandrei ... Director, Producer, Cinematographer
- Prod. Co.
- Rolling River Films
- United States
- Years of Production
- 1917 - present
- New York City
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