Which would you pick? A good teacher? Or YOUR teacher?
A good teacher could imply that he/she teaches you well. You will understand every lesson. You will have no trouble understanding stuff and will most likely be on the top of your ladder of success if you follow their lead.
YOUR teacher means someone who takes an extra time out of work to comfort you for your troubles. Someone who listens to you and gives you advice even if you say you do not need it.
Someone cares enough to teach you LIFE and not just ABC.
Two films that show two very different teachers and how they chose to handle their students all whilst battling society’s problems during their days, are Richard LaGravanese’s The Freedom Writers and John Avildsen’s Lean on Me. Both films, tackled very differently, have the same moral. That the bottomline is, great teachers are those who care for us.
THE FREEDOM WRITERS
A film based on the book The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell showed a dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her students to take an interest in their education and planning their future. She assigns reading material that relates to their lives and encourages them all to keep journals. At first, she was not very welcome in her class, not only because she was white but mainly because she was new to the neighborhood. However, as the story gradually developed, she and her students find a bond.
Marcus: No, that don’t fly Ma.
Erin Gruwell: First of all, I’m not anybody’s mother.
Andre: No, that’s not what it means.
Eva: It’s a sign of respect … for you.
Her and her students’ story was one to definitely remember and this exchange is its highlight.
Erin: The evaluation assignment was to grade yourself on the work you’re doing. You gave yourself an F. What’s that all about?
Andre: It’s what I feel I deserve, that’s all.
Erin: Oh really?
Erin: You know what this is? This is Fuck You to me and everyone in this class. I don’t want excuses. I know what you’re up against. We’re all of us up against something. So you better make up your mind, because until you have the balls to look me straight in the eye and tell me that this is all you deserve, I am not letting you fail. Even if that means coming to your house every night until you finish the work. I see who you are. Do you understand me? I can see you. And you are not failing.
Seldom do you see these teachers – those who teach not just for the sake of teaching, but those who teach because they care for their students. These teachers are hard to come by, and I am proud to have met a good few of these people myself.
LEAN ON ME
In this fact-based film, a New Jersey superintendent, Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume), watches helplessly as East Side High becomes the lowest-ranked school in the state. With nowhere else to turn, Dr. Napier enlists maverick ex-teacher Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) to take over as principal of the declining school. Unfortunately for Clark, before he can focus on improving the student body’s state exam scores, he has to somehow rid the school of its gang and narcotics problems.
This, I can relate to. I grew up with strictness and discipline constantly bugging me to study, study, study. I could not play not until I finished my homework. I could not even as much as glance at the television unless I master the multiplication table. I grew out of the phase, eventually. My brother is currently being taunted by it too. HE is young and he is still well in his formative years so I can understand. (Haha!)
Joe Clark: This is an institution of learning, ladies and gentlemen. If you can’t control it, how can you teach? Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm!
The story follows Joe Clark and his efforts to upturn and make liars of society. His struggles, often always depicted through verbal exchange of curses and negro jargon, is constantly highlighted in the film.
I liked this film, a lot. Something about how Morgan Freeman depicted a strong teacher, yet all the while showing a crazy man is, in a way, fascinating and inspiring, for me. Deeply reminding us, that for all of our crazy routines, all the words we spit out towards society and how ‘dumb’ the system is, what have we really done? This brings me the very point that teachers are noble beings – theirs is a calling that no one can dismiss. There would not be good lawyers if there were no good teachers, no good doctors, no successful entrepreneurs if no one taught them how to do and how to excel in their fields.
But this film, for all its disciplinary actions and constant reminder that good students must always obey their teachers, showed too, that often, teachers go wrong! Sometimes, the teacher gets too focused on taking disciplinary action that they alienate everyone around them. Sometimes, the teacher forgets that he is not the only teacher who cares.
Joe Clark: We sink, we swim, we rise, we fall, we meet our fate, together!
Two very different teachers who battled with the same thing: racial segregation; discrimination.
Erin Gruwell inspired her ‘gang’ to change and become better people. Joe Clark instilled proper manners and showed that sometimes, discipline is the only way to go when things become rotten to the core.
These two films are among the many others I never tire of rewatching most days. I see my mother in Erin, most of my teachers in fact, they are the ones who always do the unconventional things in class but at the end of the day, you’d realize all of it had a point. They were trying to point out reality in a fun, and unusual way – not the old boring lecture kind of way.
I see my mother in Joe Clark, constantly reprimanding and perfectionism at her core, she demands the same from each of her students. Teaching can come in lots of ways, really. This is what these two films, are all about. No matter where you are from, or what you have become, a good teacher, a good principal, will surely go beyond his/her job description to straighten you out because he/she cares for you.