Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reel Teachers

Little Miss Sunshine. Disturbia. After the Wedding. Intolerable Cruelty. There Will Be Blood. The Good German. Notes on a Scandal. La Vien En Rose. Michael Clayton. Atonement. Across The Universe. Provoked.

These are some of the movies that I had watched over the semester break. I am a serious movie buff you see and if only I can make a living out of watching movies someday. In between discovering that George Clooney and Shia LaBeouf have really nice eye lashes, I still have these DVDs to occupy me for the rest of my semester break.

Mind you, these are all pirated DVDs. Now, let's just pray that the optical discs-sniffing Labradors, Lucky and Flo would be miles away from my house. Therefore, with my amassed movie-viewing over the time, it is only natural that I have watched quite a few movies on English teachers over the years although I have never watched the classic To Sir With Love. Here's a look at some of my favourite English teachers on the silver screen.

Erin Gruwell, Freedom Writers

This could be one of the latest movie featuring an English language teacher. While I find this movie very inspiring with her enthusiasm and her creative approaches in reaching out to the students, it kinda freaked me out as well. Well, this is after all a fact of life as it is based on the real story of the Freedom Writers Foundation and the rowdy students portrayed in the movie could very well be any Bakar, Balakrishnan and Ah Beng in Malaysia. My only teaching experience was in a nursery and even those toddlers there gave me a hard time. Although I tried not to think of it, I would shudder at the thought of the students start bawling and throwing chairs in the classroom.

One of the methods that she used which I particularly like was when she divided the students into two lines based on their experience. To me, that was the most poignant moment when the students start stepping into the lines and realize that their teacher really cares about them. I think we would have come across underprivileged students in our career and I guess we just have to put ourselves in their shoes in order to reach out to them.

John Keating, Dead Poets Society
Now, this is my all-time-favourite English teacher whom I have watched again and again. It is also the movie which introduced the carpe diem mantra to me. While his style is rather unconventional, I mean lecturing on top of a desk and tearing pages away from books are not very principal-friendly methodologies but he does really teach his student to follow their heart. Which makes me wonder, what is it that I have to offer my students with me still at the crossroads in life?

Jeremy Brown, Mind Your Language

When it comes to English teachers, no one must ever forget the delectable Mr. Brown with his brood of foreign students in Mind Your Language. My mum said she never missed an episode of the show when it was on air in the 80s and now I find myself catching up with her after getting hold of the DVD box set (again, pirated DVDs, no guilts). Nevertheless, I don't think the Malaysian classroom would be as interesting and colourful as his, and come to think of it, his students must have a good grasp of English in the first place for them to make all the laughable mistakes.

Sheba Hart, Notes on a Scandal

Some people might say that there a few bad apples in a profession which spoilt the lot. The character, Sheba Hart which is played by the crafty Cate Blanchett may fall into this category because she had an affair with her student. I had read the book prior to watching the movie adaptation of it and I must say that this is one of the few where both the book and the movie-tie-in are equally good. She could be a flawed teacher but I think like every upbeat new teacher, she must have been disappointed by the unappreciative students who show no enthusiasm to learn at all. Her first few days in the classroom were described as a scene from Lord of the Flies. Eventually she found a student who displayed some interest and it is only unfortunate that the student had the intention of getting into her pants and she was too weak to resist the lure of the forbidden love.

Barbara Covett, Notes on a Scandal

Now, this is one teacher who is played to a chilly perfection by Dame Judi Dench which freaks my friend, another fellow TESLian out. You know teachers always have the reputation or emm, a higher chances of living out the life of an old, lonely spinster. Well, I am an only child so I have always guarded my privacy as if it's my birth right, therefore I think I might not have a problem on this area, hehe. But then again, to all the fellow singletons out there, let's hope our knights will not take such a long time to polish up their armours.

Louanne Johnson, Dangerous Minds

Finally, this is one good teacher that I have yet to watch or read. Wow, look, the cikgu is so rugged is with her leather jackets and her jeans. Someone in the class brought up this title in his presentation and I am still on the lookout for the pirated DVD version of it to add into my collection, :p. All in all, teachers seem to be quite a popular figure in the la-la land, other titles that can be checked out if you want to have an armchair experience of teaching are Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Music of the Heart, Kindergarten Cop, well, that's if you are game enough to teach in a pre-school.


Labyrinth said...

The wonders of pirated dvds aih? ;-) Chen, I love your idea of watching those teacher-related movies though some may be too good to be true or could only happen on silver screen..I must admit that there are some things that you could learn from watching them. My 2 cents: We so cannot divide our students into two lines in the classroom as in Gruwell's. If we did, our lines would end up in Thailand. hehe and I am also pretty sure that we can't stand on student desks, as we're not allowed to wear pants to teach in our public schools...Mind your language is also a lot different than our classroom as ours is an ESL and not an EFL classroom. Though it was a funny sitcom back then. Hart's? No scandal please..Covett's 'spinsterhood'? hahahaha now THAT is funny. And why would you want your knight to come save you? Have you seen 'Enchanted'? hehe Dangerous minds? No jeans or leather allowed, pls. Under the tropical weather that we have, I am sure you're happy NOT to put on leather or boots. ;-)great job putting your thoughts into words.hope u got something out of watching those!

Chee PoayLing said...

HAHAH! and allow me to.... SCREAM 'AAAAAAHHH!!!' I WANT TO WATCH THEM TOO! Love the wonderful pirated! I don't care so much anymore! just want to watch them! ... Remember that vietnam movie? since 2nd year til now... yooorr... we must spend some movie time together... muaaks... miss u...