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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movies Set in Public Schools

Having watched more movies set in public schools than I really should have, I've come to a number of conclusions. They're all wrong. Here's why:

  1. The actors are too fucking old. It just gets silly. I hear they're doing a 90210 reunion series... Could have fooled me, I thought the original 90210 WAS a reunion show.
  2. They throw far too many paper airplanes. I have yet to see any of my students actually even construct a rudimentary paper airplane, let alone aim one skillfully at the nerdy kid's head.
  3. There ARE no nerdy kids in the really nasty classes. The closest thing is the Goth kid who reads novels about suicidal anorexic girls who cut themselves. And set fire to things.
  4. You can teach them Shakespeare for over a month and you will never see your students experience a moment of revelation of biblical proportions whereby they quote the Bard to their nemesis/parent/unfair administrator/bully/abusive partner/you/whatever in climactic emotional release. Never.
  5. Real students don't express the anguish of their violent socioeconomic station in life as articulately and objectively. Those same students also rarely emerge triumphant, rising above their abusive home lives. They usually get pregnant, arrested, high, or all three, or else continue the ugly cycle.
  6. When the actor-teacher shares his/her heartfelt message to the class of overcoming life's obstacles, the actor-students usually sneer with derisive laughter before being touched very deeply, shedding their mockery and replacing it with pensive humility and inner-reflection. Real students turn and chat to each other or continue to laugh at you out loud. (I don't patronize my students by giving such speeches. I just drop hints that I have high hopes and expectations of them and say "WHEN you go to college" regardless of what I really think of their prospects).
  7. The actors don't swear like sailors with Tourette's syndrome. Our students do.
  8. The actors are more openly disappointed in cases of teenager pregnancy. Our kids throw baby showers and invite the teachers.

One thing they do get right is the randomly bursting into song thing. Okay, so you won't get me to actually sit down and watch High School Musical, but I get enough of that at work. Not a day goes by that I don't have to tell a kid to please sit down, stop dancing, stop singing, and save it for some reality TV show.

Call me cynical, but there are very few teaching-related movies I can actually watch without groaning, rolling my eyes and bemoaning the cheese factor. The movies don't come close to capturing how truly amazing it is to develop relationships with these kids, the honor we have to touch their lives for a brief moment in the hopes of making their futures just that little bit rosier, the anguish we feel when their lives spiral out of control and there's nothing we can do about it. It's hideous, and funny, and sad, and inspiring.

Give me the real deal any day.

PS: Okay, I lied. I actually liked To Sir, With Love despite the fact that wine would go great with the sheer volume of cheese involved.


Anonymous said...

'I have yet to see any of my students actually even construct a rudimentary paper airplane, let alone aim one skillfully at the nerdy kid's head.'


Rudimentary, I like that word.

Radmila said...

To Sir with Love is my favourite movie of all time....it inspired me to become a Teacher.

My husband jokes that Mark Thakary is my real husband...LOL

Realm Of Dreams said...

Me and my friend spent VAST amounts of time building and flying paper airplanes in school when we should have been studying. It is a shame to see that today's students have lost this valuable skill.

Anonymous said...

working at a school-i can also add that in the movies, the bad kids never have a vision for what the future holds for them, or they are sure they are doomed to a terrible life in the streets they've grown up in. In real life, every kid, no matter how bad or uninvolved is sure their future is one of riches and fame. They are all going to college, all going to be hiphop stars, and get paid to play videogames under the guise of videogame makers.

'liya said...

This was great! But you know I think it depends too. My students taught me how to make a paper airplane last year :D

I try to make a point of watching every teacher-school type movie there is. Last one I watched was Half Nelson. Fascinating watching a teacher on drugs lol.

Steve said...

Did you happen to see the fourth season of The Wire? That was all about teaching in public schools and although I'm not a teacher, it seemed pretty spot-on. Would be interested in hearing what you thought of it.

TeacherLady said...

Yazan, I agree. It's a great word!

Radmilla, wasn't Poitier just the coolest?

Realm of dreams, I guess I'll have to make that the theme of a lesson some day... Paper airplane construction.

Anon, what do you mean? ALL my students are going to be NBA stars! Even the short fat ones who hardly ever practice at all. Yup.

'Liya, that movie sounds sadly realistic! My new English teacher is already showing interest in becoming an alcoholic after one and a half weeks at our school.

Steve, I've never seen the Wire. I shall add it to my growing list of things I must watch! Thanks!

Hani Obaid said...

Yes it's not real, but we still enjoy the fantasy. My favorites are:

1. Stand and deliver
(Edward James Olmos)
2. To sir with love
(Sidney Poitier)
*I love the song too*
3. Dangerous minds (Michell Pfeifer)

TeacherLady said...

As for movies set in private schools, there's always Dead Poets Society. Oh Captain, my captain! Chock full of cheesy sentiment and cathartic fantasy! Yay!