I love movies about teachers, probably because I am one, and I would like to share with you some of what I believe to be the best movies about teaching and learning that I hope you'll love too. Movies about this are something we can all relate to, as we have all been there! It resonates with us all, sometimes in both a good and bad way. So in the hope of inspiring you, here are some of my favorite movies about teachers.
I know opinion is divided on this one but I actually quite like this film. Based on LouAnne Johnson's memoirs, "My Posse Don't Do Homework," it's a familiar tale of minds being shaped and transformed by someone who just wanted to give them the time of day, whilst others gave up on them. LouAnne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer) is an ex-Marine who has been hired as a teacher in a high school in a poor area in California. After a terrible reception from the students, she tries some unconventional methods of teaching, such as karate and Bob Dylan lyrics, to inspire and gain the trust of the students. The film does differ from the book and this is one of the reasons it received negative reviews on release, but it's entertaining stuff and is one of my favorite movies about teachers.
Educational theme aside, this is one of my all time favorite movies. Set in the North of England, the film charts the struggle of 26 year old Rita, who longs for an education and undertakes an Open University course with Frank (Michael Caine) as her tutor. It's funny, warm and touching all at the same time, as they both learn from each other. As it's a play I teach, I get to watch this one every year!
Again, based on real events, the film centers around Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank), an idealistic teacher who has just started her first English teaching job at a high school. Two years earlier, however, this school had implemented a voluntary integration program which has ruined the school and damaged its previously strong reputation. Many of the students are lucky to graduate or even gain basic literacy skills. Erin is unprepared for the nature of her classroom, which contains wayward students who are well versed in gang violence - part of their everyday culture. She begins using creative writing to help the students feel more empowered, but in her passionate quest for her students' well being, she neglects her personal life.
A list of films about teachers would not be complete without this classic starring Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke. It contains that perfect blend of humor (which we would expect from a film with Robin Williams) and solemnity. This really is another one of my all time favorite films (I say that a lot, don't I!). Set in 1959, Professor Keating (Robin Williams) is an English teacher who inspires and engages students with his unorthodox teaching methods. He has a profound effect on the lives of his students as he teaches them to follow their dreams and aspirations, and their lives are changed forever as a consequence.
Okay, this is an old one (1967, I told you it was old), but they're often the best so bear with me. Mark Thackeray, played by Sidney Poitier, is an engineer who arrives at an East End school in London to teach a class of wayward students. He waits patiently for that engineering job to come along and 'rescue' him but whilst he does so, he begins to implement his own brand of classroom discipline and encourages the students to respect each other and themselves. Inevitably, he begins getting involved in the students' personal lives and has to avoid the advances of a student who has developed a crush over him (we've all been there, haven't we, ladies?). When the engineering job he has been longing for finally comes along, he is left with a difficult decision to make as naturally, the students have made more of an impact upon him than he could ever imagine!
With a cast boasting the likes of Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst, this is another film which divided box-office and critics' opinions. Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) has accepted a position teaching art history at the prestigious Wellesley College. For the 1950s, Watson is a thoroughly modern woman with a passion for both her subject and teaching her students. However, she soon discovers that the students all seem to be waiting for one thing - Mr Right! Watson is frustrated by the fact that the students are all very bright but don't seem to be reaching their full potential. A strong bond is formed between Watson and her students but she soon discovers that her views are incompatible with the culture of the college, which feels she is steering too far away from the syllabus. I understand how tempting this can be for a teacher!
Based on Alan Bennett's fabulous play of the same name, this is another great film. Set in 1980s Yorkshire, it follows a class of boys hoping to make it into the top universities in the country - Oxford or Cambridge. Two teachers work to help the boys prepare for the university entrance exams but this fails to satisfy the arrogant head master, who enlists extra help in the shape of Irwin. It's a funny and heartwarming tale starring the late and great Richard Griffiths as the General Studies teacher who insists on giving the boys a ride home on his motorcycle...
Films about school life and teachers can be idealistic and a little sickly sweet at times. Whilst watching them, I sometimes find myself screaming "That would never happen!" or "As if!" at the screen. But that's entertainment and whilst they won't always be a direct representation of reality, they can still make you think and teach you something new about life. Which films about school do you love to watch? Have you enjoyed any of the ones above as much as I have? Perhaps I haven't included your favourite ones, in which case I will write the lines "I must include my readers' favourites" a hundred times over!
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