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Top Five Tales of Teaching

Banes at 12:00AM, April 11, 2024

teacher, teacher, can you teach me –

I was revisiting a classic movie, one of the ones on this list, in the past week or so, and thinking of the archetypal teacher/student dynamic in fiction.

So, in line with my Top Five Tales of Bands from last year, here's my take on the Top Five Tales of Teachers (meaning teachers, students, and that dynamic).

Before we jump in to the list, remember to vote on the COVER DESIGN for the ANTHOLOGY OF DREAMS project, here in the Duck Forums:

Top Five Tales of Teachers, Teaching, and Students

For this list, I'm focusing on actual teachers in schools - the actual student/teacher dynamic. So, not just mentor figures, coaches and what have you.

There are PLENTY I haven't seen. In the world of anime, this dynamic is legion, but I haven't seen enough anime to have any real favorites there.

Onward, students!

5. Summer School
An 80's comedy that I LOVED when I was young. I actually remember being embarrassed about loving it so much, and rewatching it so often. Until a
friend from school mentioned the movie and I realized that other people could be entranced by movies, just like I could. It's a classic setup - a slacker gym teacher, California surfer guy played by Mark Harmon is forced to teach summer school for a bunch of eccentric, struggling students. They bond, he helps them and they help him, and he gets to fall in love with Kirstie Alley! Not a bad summer! Watching it again recently, it's as charming as ever, but with multiple scenes that don't really make sense. Still a winner in my book, and it features two students who are obsessed with movies, horror makeup and special effects, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Noice!

4. Mr. Holland's Opus
This might be THE movie about teaching. At least, that's the impression I get. A musician (Richard Dreyfuss) takes a teaching gig when he's desperate for money. The movie follows thirty-something years in his life as a teacher and a husband and father. He works away at paying the bills and constantly has to set aside his own musical ambitions. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. The makeup is really great too, making Richard Dreyfuss younger, then older than his actual age. A great one.

3. School of Rock
This movie made my top five tales of bands/music as well. It's just awesome. Jack Black's at his best, and the script is phenomenal. Jack Black reunites with the kids from the class/band every ten years or so for a reunion concert. How sweet is that?

2. Honorable Mentions
There is nooooo…number two. Honestly, there are some classics that I either haven't seen (Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds) or don't remember well enough (Teachers, Kindergarten Cop), or are amazing but just don't fit the teacher/student/classroom paradigm for this list (Morgan Freeman in Lean on Me is the Principal, Tom Hanks in a League of their own is a coach, same as Walter Matthau in the Bad News Bears). Speaking of Dangerous Minds, the trailer for that movie is all I've ever seen. For whatever reason, I saw that trailer a hundred times. Michelle Pfeiffer comes into the class in a leather jacket? I'd be hitting the books like a madman, I tells ya! There was a parody of that movie/genre with Jon Lovitz called High School High. The parody used that same cool, tough-sounding hip hop song. Just the two trailers told the whole story, somehow!

1. Dead Poets Society
I went for Robin Williams (it was his first dramatic role I think), but stayed for the students in this super-strict, rigid, conformist boarding school in the 1950's. Robin Williams is the new English Teacher who opens the minds of the boys in his class and inspires them to think outside the box. This movie got me at the right time, when I was a teenager looking to be inspired. Carpe Diem! Seize the day! This movie holds up. There are debates online with some people arguing that Robin Williams as the teacher is actually completely wrong to be doing what he's doing in this class, and doing the boys a disservice. It's interesting to see these debates. I think I see this film as more metaphorical in a way, with the conformity and authoritarian nature of the school and the inspiration from Robin Williams kind of representing parts of our own minds, and the struggles we face in life to figure out how to function in life as well as how to LIVE. Still a powerful movie.

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Gunwallace at 2:54PM, April 12, 2024

To Sir, With Love, as Tantz said. Classic. For manga/anime, how about Assassination Classroom? The teacher-pupil dynamic in that one is very odd (the strange alien-like teacher challenges his students to kill him), but oddly sweet and sensitive (against the odds its a nurturing dynamic, designed to give purpose, direction, and confidence to the kids).

mks_monsters at 12:15PM, April 11, 2024

School of Rock will always be number one for me and one of Jack Black's best. I also loved how in the end, he genuinely cared about these kids even the ones who annoyed him. I feel that even though he didn't mean for it to happen, he's a realistic portrayal of a genuine teacher: they start off as just doing their job, but in the end, they form a bond with you.

JohnCelestri at 7:13AM, April 11, 2024

Yes, Tantz_Aerine! "To Sir With Love" is my first choice, followed by "Blackboard Jungle". Both had Sidney Poitier in the cast: Teacher and as a rebellious Student.

PaulEberhardt at 6:34AM, April 11, 2024

Excerpts from Dead Poet's Society were actually shown in lectures during my first terms of teacher training, as a discussion basis about what good teaching is. Pedagogy professors typically haven't seen a school from the inside for decades, so he may be excused... My colleagues and I sometimes have a movie evening together (in school) where we watch a film like that and usually have a good laugh at all the things they get wrong, the ones that everyone would like to see working in reality but haven't got a cat's chance in hell. That's much of the list. We like a well-made satire, too, and a favourite of mine is called "Locked-in Society" in its English language dub. It lampoons teachers (but also parents) in such an edgy but fun way that even we as the nominal targets couldn't help having a blast. Since there was some guitar talk in DD's forum the other day, I should mention I think School of Rock is cool in many respects, even if the framing plot is a bit too cliché for my taste.

bravo1102 at 6:26AM, April 11, 2024

@Tantz: loved that movie!

Tantz_Aerine at 2:28AM, April 11, 2024

Gotta mention To Sir With Love, too!

bravo1102 at 12:40AM, April 11, 2024

GTO or Great Teacher Onizuka. The greatest teacher/student franchise bar none. There are at least three incarnations of it, one anime and two live action. Can a slacker ex-motorcycle tough (not too bright either) with a habit of trashing his principal's brand new car make it as a teacher?

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