The Curse of the Inspirational Teacher Movie

Inspirational-Teacher-moviesBy Elizabeth Turco — With my student teaching right around the corner, I have been preparing long and hard.

No, I have not been rereading all my education books from the last few years, nor have I been looking back through my old notes. I have been doing what I imagine all prospective teachers are doing to get excited for teaching: watching inspirational teacher movies. 

These movies are great and all follow the same equation: young naïve teacher + urban school + dedication and enthusiasm – life problems = success in the classroom. Everyone wins. Everyone lives happily ever after.

In the midst of friendship and fuzzy feelings, however, is an unsettling plot element. In every inspirational teacher movie, there is always at least one old and jaded teacher, who disagrees with every innovative and engaging activity that the new teacher brings to the classroom. These teachers are shown as the mean and uppity antagonist—and are more preoccupied with making their job easier than benefiting the students. They oppose all the new and innovative teaching techniques that these new teachers bring to the table.  They are exactly how society perceives old teachers.

As a new teacher it makes me worry. Having the old teachers as a road block for success is troublesome. Weren’t those teachers once young and eager for success? What has happened to them to make them so negative and jaded? The more I watch these movies, the more I fear for myself, turning into this creature, one who hates students and longs for the beloved school vacations.

Especially as a new teacher, I worry of encountering the many problems in education, but having no positive role models to turn to, thus making myself an army of one. Can I handle these teachers like in those movies? In addition to showing the greatness that teaching can have, these movies also show teaching at its worst. These movies tell me that my effective teaching time is on a countdown. Eventually, I will become just like the crabby old teachers, ineffective and uncaring. The pressure of student difficulties will overwhelm my high hopes, enthusiasm, and pizazz, therefore destroying me.

This simple stereotype of old teachers cannot be true. Do years of experience count for nothing? In my own experiences, I have encountered my fair share of wonderful older teachers and incapable new teachers. These movies show youth as the key to educational success, but is that really true? To become an expert in something, you have to do it over and over again, for years. One does not simply walk into a classroom and make an infinite amount of impact with no prior knowledge of how to do it. While these inspirational teacher movies are heartwarming and give hope to all new teachers, they do not give justice to experience.

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