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School Life

A film by Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane

100 minutes

Scene Selection • Closed Captioned • Deleted Scenes

Grades 6 - Adult
Item #:SCL-2017

Select DVD License (limited PPR included)

K-12 Classrooms, Public Libraries: DVD - $89
K-12 Classrooms, Public Libraries: DVD + Digital File - $139
Community Screening, Businesses: $295
Colleges, Institutions, & Community Screenings: DVD - $295
Colleges: DVD with Digital Site License - $395
K-12 School District pricing available. Please inquire at [email protected]
School Life follows a year in the lives of two inspirational teachers in the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland. Headfort School — with its 18th century buildings, secret doors, and magical woodlands — is a revered institution that sees students attend from all over the world, staff made up of former students, and educators who have staid they for decades, lending the school their characteristic idiosyncrasies. Married teaching duo John and Amanda Leyden have sat at the front of Headfort's classrooms for 46 years. Shaping thousands of minds for nearly half a century, now the unthinkable looms: what would retirement mean? Who will keep them young if they leave?

For John, rock music is just another subject alongside Math, English, Scripture, and Latin, all of which are taught in a collaborative and often hilarious fashion, employing the Socratic method in way that ensures a continuous learning experience for the teachers as well as their students. Tucked away in a cellar that's home to the school's two rock bands, John nurtures a special kind of youth revolution that teaches responsibility and independence in equal measure as he tells the kids they can play whatever they in their unique sanctuary space.

For Amanda, the key to connecting with children is through books, and she uses all means  available to ensnare their minds. Her office is packed to the rafters with thousands of titles from every genre and for every taste. The children sit transfixed as she takes them on magical journeys with fantastical characters from tales of all kinds. 

Is the school an anachronism in this globalized world or a clever remake of the flawed British public school model? The epitome of establishment, it's presided over by a leftward-leaning headmaster, also a former student, who eschews class in favor of achievement, but retains the links that connect Headfort to the levers of power. As John and Amanda ponder retirement, the film quietly ponders: Will their intimate, caring cultivation of future generations live on, or will it vanish like so many community-centered practices?

School Life is a joyful and humorous account of the success that schools can achieve when students are invited to be play a role in their own curriculum, and offers a wealth of strategies and techniques for fostering greater educational outcomes for schools of all types. 

FILMMAKERS' STATEMENT: "In our initial research, we watched many films about schools. What is unique about the experience in our film is the level of access we were given, behind the scenes, entering into a world where every parent would like to be a fly-on-the-wall.

Our film is the result of the relationship we have built while researching during our first year of the project at Headfort. Stemming from this relationship between teacher, student, and film crew produced intimate footage with raw emotion that we feel is rarely found on film or television today.

Getting to that level of intimacy is a skill, and it required a lot of time and trust. We could not possibly make a film about a boarding school that unpeels the many layers of this world without having invested so much time researching, understanding, and planing how to film this very nuanced institution.

Our documentary is an examination of a particular type of childhood and education, a childhood very different from what most parents in the 21st century deem as conventional, or even acceptable, and an education that sets Headfort apart from the norm."
School Life
School Life

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