Teachers on Film

As I see it, there are two sides of teaching: the objective side and the subjective side. Objectively, teachers impart knowledge on their students, helping them learn about measurable things like reading, math, science and social studies. But, subjectively speaking, teachers can have impacts that are felt in ways they may never even know about. Inspiration, perseverance, optimism; these are traits that many kids don’t get a taste of at home, and having a teacher who cares even a little bit can make the difference.

Movies can give us great examples of these sorts of teachers, so I thought I’d share my personal favorite depictions of teachers on film. The settings range from urban to rural, and while some of them are sentimental, some of them are funny and some are over-the top, all of them share one thing: a teacher who changes lives.

As I see it, there are two sides of teaching: the objective side and the subjective side. Objectively, teachers impart knowledge on their students, helping them learn about measurable things like reading, math, science and social studies. But, subjectively speaking, teachers can have impacts that are felt in ways they may never even know about. Inspiration, perseverance, optimism; these are traits that many kids don’t get a taste of at home, and having a teacher who cares even a little bit can make the difference.

Movies can give us great examples of these sorts of teachers, so I thought I’d share my personal favorite depictions of teachers on film. The settings range from urban to rural, and while some of them are sentimental, some of them are funny and some are over-the top, all of them share one thing: a teacher who changes lives.

Stand and Deliver
Stand and Deliver – Teaching calculus to inner-city LA students might seem impossible, but this movie, based on the true story, shows that it can be done.

 
 
 
 

Dead Poet's Society
Dead Poets Society – Probably the most famous film example of the inspirational effect that a teacher can have on a classroom. Robin Williams is at his dramatic best here, promoting the value of ideas and conviction of your beliefs to a group of middle school boys who’ve never heard anything like it.

 
 
 

Fast Times and Ridgemont High
Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Odd choice for this list? Not exactly. Everyone remembers slacker Jeff Spicoli, but the turning-point intervention by his “uptight” teacher Mr. Hand is a non-flashy, positive role that stuck with me.

 
 
 

October Sky
October Sky –The story of Homer Hickam and his group of friends who strive to do more than be coal-miners is a true crowd-pleaser, but this real-life story never would have begun if not for the motivation of his teacher, Miss Riley.

 
 
 

Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans – Even though this one is obviously a “football” movie, the deeper themes of teamwork, equality and leadership made this appeal to a larger crowd. Denzel Washington’s performance as the head coach speaks volumes about the impact a great educator can have.

 
 
 

Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting – The teacher/student relationship takes on a more singular focus in this one, once again showing how a wiser, older voice can help guide those in need of help.

 
 
 
 

School Out Rock
School of Rock – Another unconventional entry on this list. You may think Jack Black’s fake substitute character is a horrible role model, and you’d be right in most cases, but he does inspire a passion for music in his pupils, and getting kids to be passionate about something is a major priority for most teachers.

 
 
 

Mr Holland's Opus
Mr. Holland’s Opus – A melancholy tale, but inspirational in the end. An aspiring composer takes a job as a high-school music teacher, where over the years he comes to feel frustrated, ineffectual and unappreciated. However, in the twilight of his career, his former students show him just how much his attention and influence has meant to them.

 
 

Kindergarten Cop
Kindergarten Cop – Though this might be stretch, I think Schwarzenegger’s role as an undercover kindergarten teacher really demonstrates how hard it is to teach young kids. The film captures the controlled chaos that is a kindergarten classroom, which gave me a bigger appreciation for the brave teachers who tackle the challenge. Plus, it’s hilarious.

 
 

Sister Act 2
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit – Yet another comedy film that still manages to capture the incredible importance of a good teacher. Even though this movie isn’t perfect, it makes a powerful point: a dedicated teacher can change the course of their students’ lives.

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7 Responses to “Teachers on Film”

  1. Teresa Buckley SadowskiJanuary 12, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Can't believe you forgot to include To Sir, With Love and Conrak or the even the Hallmark version of The Water is Wide. Someone very young or not much of a TV watcher must have come up with the list:)

  2. Paul BurceJanuary 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    Geena Davis on LONG KISS GOODNIGHT

  3. The School Speech TherapistJanuary 12, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Can't believe you forgot to include To Sir, With Love and Conrak or the even the Hallmark version of The Water is Wide. Someone very young or not much of a TV watcher must have come up with the list:)

  4. Tony BachelderJanuary 12, 2014 at 3:11 am #

    If you haven't seen Chalk (2006). You need to. It hits pretty close to home. Most of the cast are real teachers and students.

  5. Susan Everett BaileyJanuary 11, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Just recently watched Conrack on one of the movie stations. Great book, great movie.

  6. Susan Everett BaileyJanuary 11, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    To Sir, With Love

  7. Catherine HopkinsJanuary 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    Conrack, based on the novel The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy