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Teaching Tips from the Movies

Many think that teachers have it easy, with all those holidays, free periods and a somewhat shorter working day. Yet in reality, teaching is much more difficult than you might think. For one, teachers have to deal with hormone-ridden teens and hyper kids. Plus, a teacher’s day doesn’t necessarily end when the bell rings. There’s marking, lesson planning and sometimes further pedagogical responsibilities to be brought into the equation. So let’s give those shaping the minds of the next generation some credit and see what it takes to be a good teacher, on the silver screen at least.

1. Dangerous Minds

This 90’s classic, mostly famous because of the Coolio track that came along with it, sees Michelle Pfeiffer take on the role of educator to a diverse group of unruly young miscreants living in a ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. She soon gets her students on side by seemingly bribing them with day trips, candy bars and slap-up chicken dinners. Though this may seem a little transparent, having a system of rewards or incentives does work in the classroom – hell, it even works in the office. More importantly, she gets to know the teens outside of the classroom, which helps the middle-class white woman gain more of an understanding of their social background, and her empathy gains their respect. Although an intimate relationship with students cannot be advocated, there’s no harm in getting to know students. Respect and attention will be reciprocated, and teaching methods specifically catered to the individual concerned.

2. Harry Potter

As far as teachers go, we really get to see the good, the bad and the ugly in the Harry Potter movies, I’m not naming any names… Every fan probably has their favourite, but I shall just mention my main man Dumbledore here. Dumbledore is a stoic figure, a personal mentor to Harry and let’s face it, often speaks in riddles. In an age where pressure is piled upon students and teachers alike to pump out good grades in a factory-like system, a tip can be taken from the Hogwarts headmaster. Spoon-feeding won’t get young minds anywhere in the big scheme of things. Some things pupils just have to work out for themselves and if they’re thinking for themselves by the time they get to university, they’ll already have an advantage.

3. Happy-Go-Lucky

This award-winning indie film is a must-see for anyone and features break-out British star Sally Hawkins as primary school teacher Poppy. As you might imagine from the title, Poppy is a character which emanates joy at all times. This may not be realistic for most, but as the leader of the classroom, your mood will affect the learning atmosphere. In other words, if you’re known as grumpy old Mr Bloggs or you’re more of a Professor Snape than a Poppy, it’s unlikely that pupils will be engaged. What Hawkins’ character also brings to the classroom alongside her enthusiasm, is a playful sense of creativity. And there’s absolutely no reason why a little creative fun has to be reserved for younger learners.

At the end of the day, we’ve all been to school and will have memories, sometimes fond ones, sometimes grim perhaps. But it’s surprising what can stick with you throughout the years, so teachers should make their work count. Whether it’s snippets of wisdom imparted between readings of To Kill a Mockingbird or a little extra encouragement before an exam, a teacher’s job is more than sharing facts and figures. Our time spent at school makes up our formative years after all. 

Image is the property of Buena Vista Pictures, 1995. (Fair Use)

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