I have a confession to make. I can’t stand movies about teachers. This may come as a shock to some of you. After all, I’m a teacher. I have worked in schools for almost 15 years. I first realized my distaste for teacher movies after watching the movie Freedom Writers. For those that have not seen it, let me give you a quick synopsis. The young teacher enters a difficult school and through grit and love transforms her students to high achievers. The movie ends with all students being successful. I am 100% for helping students change the world. I love my students and I hold them to very high standards. The reason why teacher movies bother me has to do with how students, teachers, and administrators are portrayed–not the idea that all students can succeed.
First, let’s look at the students in the typical teacher movie. Students are often portrayed as unmotivated, rude and not on grade level until the teacher comes and transforms their life. Some students are unmotivated. Some students are rude, but the truth is most students aren’t like that at all. Most students want to learn, and will learn if in the right environment for them. It really is a discredit to students to paint them as needing a teacher to save them. I believe a good teacher can change lives. I also believe that a student has the ability to change his/her own life. What are we teaching a student if we believe that only a teacher can impact change?
Second, let’s look at the teachers. In Freedom Writers, the main character is holding two other part-time jobs to buy supplies for her classroom. I’m guilty of buying some extras for my class. I think most teachers have done that. Let’s be honest though. You can’t expect a professional to work three jobs just to pay the bills. We don’t expect doctors to work at Wal-mart on the weekend to buy bandages for their patients. Why is that self-sacrifice okay for teachers? I’m not a politician, and I’m not going to debate how to make education a priority. I just know that the underlying message of teacher movies is that teachers will sacrifice all for the success of their students. That isn’t sustainable. That isn’t a good example to set for our students.
Finally, I don’t like how administrators are portrayed. Teachers and administrators are often seen as fighting against each other. Does that happen? Yes, it does at times. Does it happen all the time? No, I’ve had some good experiences with great team work.
My yearly rant against teacher movies is now over. I’ve got a classroom to set up and students to love. It will be a great year!