For everyone Star teachers

There’s no better time to reinvent yourself than at the start of the school year. You’re refreshed. You’ve got perspective on what worked – and what didn’t – in the year just gone. You’ve treated yourself to new stationery (a pristine diary is a thing of beauty), a new hairdo (not quite a thing of beauty, but better than it was a few weeks ago) and even new shoes (sensible and smart). This year, you’re going to be the role model students need. 

But what does that look like, exactly? Fortunately, in Hollywood, writers, directors, and actors have been showing us precisely how extraordinary we can be for decades. 

To help you get into role, here’s my Top Five Inspirational Teachers in Film (with spoilers aplenty).

1. John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989).

If you’re not a robot, you would’ve been touched by Robin Williams’s character in this hit film. Working in an elite boarding school, this English teacher empowers students to walk to the beat of their own drum. The film features literal drumming, poetry in caves, and hearty seizing of days. Admittedly, Mr Keating gets fired after the death of one of his students, but this is beside the point. The ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ scene still brings tears to the eyes.

2. LouAnne Johnson in Dangerous Minds (1995).

Faced with rebellious students who’ve been, according to the theme song by Coolio, “spendin’ most their lives livin’ in a gangsta’s paradise”, Ms Johnson succeeds in winning them over by donning a leather jacket and teaching them karate. (Conveniently, she happens to be an ex-marine.) A maverick, she throws out the rule book, takes them to a theme park, and tricks them into studying poetry by using Bob Dylan lyrics.

What can be learnt from the inspirational teachers Hollywood has gifted us?

3. Mr Holland in Mr Holland’s Opus (1995).

Glen Holland is a gifted musician and composer, whose life choices lead him to a high school. He cares a lot: about creating a symphony, and about his students. The latter becomes problematic because, in the case of Rowena, he cares too much. It’s not his flirtation that gets Mr Holland fired (this seems to be strangely overlooked) but cuts to the arts budget. Regardless, the film ends with students giving him a standing ovation, which seems to count for more in Hollywood than moral standards or job security.

4. Dewey Finn in School of Rock (2003).

Dewey isn’t your usual role-model teacher. In fact, he’s not a qualified teacher at all. The truth is, he’s broke, which is why he impersonates his flatmate and takes the class. Underneath the lies and hangovers, Dewey has a good heart and a passion for teaching music. Those kids will never be able to convert a fraction, but they do know how to make the metal sign with their hands, so all is well in the world.

5. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Let’s overlook the fact that Harrison Ford’s character is teaching at college: the point is, he’s dreamy. Sure, the female students don’t learn a thing, but their attendance is excellent, and he inspires many women to study archaeology which, in the 1930s, can’t be a bad thing. There are other films I could mention (To Sir, with Love; Stand and Deliver; Goodbye Mr Chips; Kindergarten Cop, to name but a few) but we’re out of space.

So, what can be learnt from these inspirational teachers Hollywood has gifted us? First, it helps if you teach poetry or music. Second, it helps if you’re male. (If female, it helps if you’re hot. Additionally, try investing in a leather jacket and extensive martial arts training.) Third, you’ve got to rebel against the system, even if it means crossing boundaries, and most probably losing your job and reputation. Or, alternatively, you could do this: take centre stage in those sensible-and-smart shoes and be the greatest version of yourself you can be. Hollywood won’t come knocking, and you might not get an ovation, but there’s a good chance you’re going to be someone’s (genuine) hero.


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