Seeing as many of us are beginning summer break, here’s your opportunity to catch up on movies. Chances are you’ve seen these five movies about real people in real schools, and been inspired. Of course, if your first year of teaching isn’t quite like this, don’t fret. Teaching in real life isn’t quite the same as teaching in the movies.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Real Teaching: You may enter a classroom and discover it is overcrowded, not everyone speaks English, and not everyone has the basic skills necessary to study the subject matter you are teaching them.
Movie Teaching: Two school years and a summer’s worth of hard work and extra math classes… mashed into two hours. Time doesn’t flow like this in the real world. Also, I don’t care what you think of that Education Testing Services representative, you’re not going to threaten to beat him up if you see him on the street.
Lean on Me (1989)
Real Teaching: Students involved with drugs? Gangs? Pregnancy? Check, check, and check.
Movie Teaching: A super-energized, school-wide effort to bring up student scores over the course of a school year… mashed into two hours. Your first year will feel a lot longer than a movie montage. Also, don’t ever take a student to the top of a building and tell him to jump off.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
Real Teaching: You won’t always see eye-to-eye with administration on how to treat your students.
Movie Teaching: Winning over behavior problem students with creative lessons and creative incentives (purchased out of your own pocket) over the duration of one school year… mashed into two hours. More work than it looks. The movie skirts over all the times your creative incentives WON’T work. Also, if your student confides she’s afraid that her ex-boyfriend who was recently released from prison is going to kill her new boyfriend, also your student, the answer is NOT to invite the new boyfriend/your student to spend the night at your house.
Coach Carter (2005)
Real Teaching: Fights break out at high school sporting events, and students who might not otherwise have a shot at certain colleges can get in through athletics.
Movie Teaching: Teaching your students to do well in sports, steer clear of trouble, and keep grades high enough to earn scholarships over the course of a basketball season… mashed into two hours. More anxiety than you realize. The movie never returns to those kids who walked out on his team at the start because it doesn’t want to focus on them, but guess what? You won’t save every person, every time. Also, if your student takes a swing at you, twisting his arm behind his back and pinning him against the wall? You’re better off not doing that.
Take the Lead (2006)
Real Teaching: Some of your students might be more interested in after school activities than academics.
Movie Teaching: Encouraging low performing students in permanent after-school detention to finally value something and work as a team over the course of a school year… mashed into two hours? I’m sure you’ve caught onto my theme: a two-hour film simply cannot convey the array of emotions, hard work, and energy you will put into your first, second, or twenty-fifth year of teaching. Also, if a student shows up at your place in the middle of the night, the correct answer is “Please leave,” as opposed to, “Please come in and ask questions about my painful past.”