What Can Hollywood Tell Us About teachers?
What can Hollywood tell us about teachers?
It’s hard to translate an accurate picture of the true lifestyle of a teacher onto the big screen. The subtle nuances of responsive pedagogy and classroom practice aside, teaching requires a deep knowledge of content, as well as an understanding of the science of learning which can be tricky to explain, let alone rewrite as entertainment. Some movies, however, manage to highlight what it means to be a teacher, both in the sense of the duties and responsibilities of the profession as well as the relationships to their students. These movies provide companies with essential knowledge; a reminder of who their primary audience is and what they care about, allowing them to develop their understanding of this unique profession, influence their marketing, improve their communications with schools and teachers and create educational resources that teachers are actually looking for.
So get the popcorn ready and elevate your Saturday Netflix session with my Top 5 Teacher movies:
1. Dead Poets Society
A classic indeed! Robin Williams plays John Keating, a new English teacher joining a strict boys prep school where students are under pressure from constant high standards. This movie shows how teachers can use sometimes unorthodox teaching methods to help students reach their potential. It also highlights the importance of Social Emotional Learning, with Mr Keating helping his students to explore poetry to learn positive self-expression. Not forgetting, of course, the exceptional teacher’s foundational skill of creating lifelong learners through memorable moments: Oh Captain, my Captain!
Watch it on Amazon Prime.
2. School of Rock
A definite favourite of mine! I really resonate with Jack Black’s character of Dewey Finn, who takes a job as a casual teacher in a prestigious school and takes his class on a wild, rock-based journey, culminating in an exciting, meaningful field trip to Battle of the Bands! This movie really shows how teachers apply purpose to learning, ensuring that students always have a meaning for activities in the classroom. It also amplifies how the best teachers focus on student individuality, encouraging them to embrace who they are while developing their skills and adding to their achievements. A feel good movie with a sing-along vibe? What’s not to love!
Watch it on Amazon Prime.
3. Good Will Hunting
While this movie doesn’t necessarily focus on classroom practice, I think it does highlight how education professionals use responsive pedagogy to advance individual students in ways that meet their learning needs. Will Hunting (Matt Damon) works with advanced maths professor Stellan Skarsgard and therapist Robin Williams to better understand himself and reach his full potential in life. Here, it is clear that Will needs a little more than a standard therapist or classroom experience and Skarsgard and Williams step in as, not just teachers, but life coach and facilitator. The most important message I take from Good Will Hunting is that a student’s individual background plays absolutely no part in what they can become, if they have the right teacher.
Watch it on Stan.
I defy anyone who’s seen Matilda not to believe that teaching is a heart-first profession. Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz) teaches Matilda’s kindy class and notices that the little girl is unusual. By visiting her home, and meeting her uninterested parents (Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman), Miss Honey realises that Matilda needs extra support if she is to reach the full potential of her amazing abilities. This movie really calls out how caring teachers are (with the exception of Miss Trunchbull!) and how they will always put their students first, with many going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their students’ wellbeing.
Watch it on Netflix.
5. Remember the Titans
Ooh we’re ending on a good one! Remember the Titans follows the journey of Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington), the new football coach at T.C. Williams High School amid rising racial tensions. Coach Boone’s athletes must learn to integrate as well as play better as a team while they keep up their grades in pursuit of scholarships. This film shows the extraordinary lengths to which teachers will go to inspire their students to be the best versions of themselves, and never give up. A heart warmer and a tear-jerker.
Watch it on Disney + and Apple TV.
The main takeaway from these movies is that teaching is more than a linear process that can be learned, at its heart it comes from a place of care, and every teacher does it differently, depending on what their students need. This understanding can elevate your education program into something that teachers find true value in and qualitative and quantitative research is key. Connecting with schools and teachers through surveys, focus groups and pilot studies can build integrity and trust with your audience while building a loyal stakeholder community. But before you do all that, perhaps start with a simple movie night.
- Connect with the teachers you want to reach through surveys, focus groups and pilot studies to better understand the needs of the classroom.
- Update your education program to reflect your new understanding of teacher and student needs.
Don’t have the time or expertise? Contact Kimberlin Education and let us help you conduct the necessary research and ensure that your education materials and marketing always strike the right chord with teachers.