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“You’re the Teacher….. You’ll Think of Something”

August 23, 2011

According to two of my education credential program teachers, I am supposed to hate the movie Teachers, starring Nick Nolte and Jobeth Williams but it is actually my favorite teacher movie out there, even if it doesn’t always paint teachers in a favorable light.  It does, however, show the gamut of personalities that populate a large urban high school.   It certainly is a hell of a lot more honest than Stand and Deliver, which fictionalized key events in order to portray Jaime Escalante as a savior, miracle teacher when in fact it was the conditions that the veteran (not new) teacher taught under (not portrayed in the film) that led to much of his success.  We know this because when Mr. Escalante changed schools, he was unable to replicate the same level of success.  The moral?  It takes a village to teach a child, not a few arrogant, “superstar” teachers that Michelle Rhee seems to believe are just waiting around the corner to teach for 50,000 a year or so.

Nolte’s character, burned out teacher Alex Jurel experiences what most teachers do as educators: slow, steady progress  of their students over time, not a 100% AP pass rate. Another one of my favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus, except for the ridiculous ending ; after all if his music program was so valued and beloved, it could have been saved.  Again, in this movie it is the brief but meaningful encounters between veteran teachers and students – and the belief that those teachers would always be there that show our profession as one of honor.   The idea was that you could go back to your school in 20 years, and find that teacher who helped you still in their classroom, not clawing for some out of classroom position or displaced on nothing other than a whim.   How times have changed.

And after all the upheaval and all the reconstitutions and charterizing,  it turns out that teachers met the yardstick of success by the district- test scores, but something more precious was destroyed in the process.  As teachers are ripped away from the schools that have become second homes, they and their students are denied that continuity of the little acts as seen in the above clip  that add up to a lifetime of positive changes; they are denied the authentic teacher in place of the data-driven one, the one I will never sucumb to becoming, no matter what percentage of my evaluation they try to make it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    August 24, 2011 8:58 pm

    “Teachers” is perhaps the most heart-warming movie about public school. The topless scene with Jobeth Williams felt a little gratuitous and was probably added as an after thought–like a sprinkle of sugar :] but a lot of the jokes are funny because they’re so probable in the “mad cap” arena of public education.

  2. August 24, 2011 9:03 pm

    Refreshing commentary that gently sheds light on an infuriating truth.

  3. Gary Jones permalink
    August 25, 2011 10:49 am

    Another superb, realistic one is a French movie with the

    English “The Class”, about an inner-city school in France.

    Reminded me of my days at Fremont High.

  4. Fremontwatch permalink
    August 25, 2011 3:46 pm

    I’ll look that movie up, Another interesting one I came across was a French documentary about a teacher who teaches all subjects in a rural school house called To Be and To Have. It is interesting to see the cultural differences in the relationship between teacher and student.
    This male teacher taught everything from math to gym and at the end of the day kids and teacher exchanged a kiss on the cheek, something that would be seen negatively here. I saw some clips of this film and plan to buy it- it looks very interesting.

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