By Tammy Trail
I truly could not think of a single topic on the subject of education that had not already been addressed by my lovely crew members.
I began to wonder about teachers who had made a difference in the lives of their students. Teachers who love their profession, and were willing to sacrifice for those they taught. The kind that became the inspiration for stories told on the big screen.
“Freedom Writers” is a true story based on the experiences of Erin Gruwell and her class of high school students at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School. This dynamic teacher sees how much segregation, poverty, and lack of support affects her students. To combat their own racism, she teaches them about the holocaust. Survivors of the holocaust come and talk to her class, and she takes them on a field trip to the “Museum of Tolerance.” She is willing to work extra jobs to provide more books, and journals for her class. In their journals, the students write about abuse, watching a friend die, or being evicted.
When she is told she can no longer teach her class, Erin fights to keep her students, convincing the superintendent to allow her to teach those students for their junior and senior years. Erin Gruwell’s success is proven with many of her students graduating high school, and going on to attend college. What I liked about this teacher is her willingness to do whatever it took to see her students succeed.
I love Sidney Poitier. One of my favorite movies in which he plays a teacher is “To Sir, with Love.” Mark Thackeray is an unemployed engineer from British Guyana. He applies for a job in his chosen field, but until he receives an offer of employment he is awarded a position as a teacher in an east London school. His class has the reputation for running off qualified teachers, and are mostly comprised of kids who have been expelled from other schools. After one very offensive moment in class, he decides that he will treat them as adults and whatever they want to discuss as adults will be done for the rest of the year. What I remember most about this movie is the way this teacher kept his cool with the class even when they baited him to get angry. I know it’s still Hollywood, but I was so impressed. Mr. Thackeray taught his students about life; how to find a job, fill out a resume, and to dress to impress. He even had a very attractive female teacher teach the young ladies about make-up, clothing, and how to act like a lady.
In the end the students fell in love with him. He decides not to take the engineering job he was offered, but instead to remain at the school as a teacher.
Another movie that is a family favorite is “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Glenn Holland is a man with a dream, to write the great American Symphony. Unfortunately, writing music takes time, perseverance, and no distractions. In order to provide for his family, Glenn Holland takes a job as a music teacher in a school that does not support the arts. He inspires his students using rock and roll as a way to help them appreciate classical music. Through the course of his teaching life, we see Glenn Holland inspire many of his students into great life choices, while other aspects of his life become more stressful. His life takes an ironic turn when he and his wife learn that their son, Cole is born deaf. For a man who relates to life through music, this is a disappointment.
What I like about this story is the fact that he loves what he does. He overcomes obstacles using his musical skills, and the ending is my favorite, because we finally get to hear his symphony, his old students return to play for him, and he has reconciled with this son.
I know there are other movies with educational themes that are just as worthy to mention, these just happen to be the ones I remember most.
Who are some of your favorite “Hollywood” teachers?