I’m going to be a teacher.
I’m still being trained, but every day I get closer and closer to the real thing. As of Friday I was assigned a classroom and an associate teacher who will watch over me and guide me on my path to academic greatness! I’m planning lessons. I’m meeting kids. I’m writing on white boards. It’s all happening.
The closer I get to the front of the classroom the more I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be a good teacher. I’ve started asking the kids I meet who their favorite teachers are and what they think makes a teacher good. I’ve thought back on my own teachers, some were wonderful, some were awful, most I can’t remember at all.
What do you think makes a good teacher?
While you think about that take a look at this list of my six favorite teachers from TV and/or movies.
Dazed and Confused . Richard Linklater . 1993
This underrated classic is mostly about the students and it boasts a really fantastic cast scattered with future stars and superstars. It’s a dead-on homage to the high school experience and if you haven’t seen it, you should. The highlight teacher moment is the post-bell political rant by Ms. Ginny Stroud. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part, but it’s great and I always watch for it.
Dead Poets’ Society . Peter Weir . 1989
Likely the first movie that pops into anyone’s mind when you talk about teaching in the movies. Dead Poets’ Society is the ultimate teaching movie. Robin Williams is so inspiring that I’m standing on my desk right now just talking about it. And the music… wow. Mr. Keating is the best teacher you never had. His teacher highlight comes in one of his first speeches: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.” It’s a great movie, if you haven’t seen it you should track it down. Here’s a great clip that will spoil the whole thing.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban . Alfonso Cuaron . 2004
My favorite Potter movie and my favorite teacher in the entire Potter canon. Professor Lupin. He’s interesting, he’s kind, he’s stern when he needs to be, and he admits his mistakes. So what if he’s a werewolf that tries to devour children – everyone has their cross to bear. A few times in Teacher’s College so far I’ve thought to myself, “That sounds like something Professor Lupin would say or do!” – A little weird, sure, but so what – I love Potter.
Mean Girls . Mark Waters . 2004
Probably my favorite movie about high school on this list. The movie is a classic no matter how many times I watch it. While everything is played pretty much for laughs and it’s a long way down the spectrum from “Dead Poets’ Society”, screenwriter Tina Fey really stands out as Ms. Norbury – the lonely, unpopular math teacher who tries to do good even while her students do bad. She’s one of my favorite examples of a teacher because she has a great sense of humour, she’s willing to give second chances, and she genuinely cares for her students. For some reason youtube is really lacking in the Ms. Norbury clips – I was hoping to find the one where they bump into her at the mall but I’ll settle for the school meeting in the gym. Follow this link to watch:
Summer Heights High . Stuart McDonald . 2007
An amazing show about Junior High School life in Australia starring Chris Lilley as “popular girl” Ja’mie, troublemaker Jonah, and delusional, tyranical drama teacher Mr. G! Lilley plays all three characters so completely that you almost immediately forget it’s the same 38 year old man dressing up in different costumes. Like the UK Office, “Summer Heights High” is terrifically funny while also having a real emotional heart to it. Jonah is a very troubled kid, and he causes a lot of problems and the only teacher who can, or will get through to him is Ms. Palmer. With an inspiring amount of patience and encouragement Ms. Palmer is able to create the one classroom in which Jonah feels safe, while she simultaneously taps into Jonah’s artistic ability and produces in him real improvement and progress. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any clips of her – so track down the show for yourselves – it’s really worth watching. Instead I’ll show you a clip of Jonah’s OTHER teacher, a teacher who is the glaring example of the opposite of all the good qualities I just mentioned.