Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur
We watch a lot of movies and these movies either give us fresh insights, or reinforce the kind of work we do. Some are simply inspiring. Since teachers will already be familiar with Indian movies like Tare Zameen par and 3 Idiots, we thought we’d share with you some foreign films (in no particular order) that will make for good viewing.
Dead Poets’ Society (1989) – Director: Peter Weir
While this movie is about an English teacher inspiring students to explore poetry, his energy and his intense purpose with children was for us very inspiring. A favourite scene is how the teacher gets his students to walk and shows them how they have been conditioned to just follow rather than be leaders of their own heart.
October Sky (1999) – Director: Joe Johnston
This is a real story of a coal miner’s son, determined to make rockets of his own with his friends much against his father’s wishes. What is interesting is that while his teachers think that the math is too tough for him, as in class he isn’t interested in the subject, when he needs it for the making of rockets – he just dives into it!
Wadjda (2012) – Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
An Arabic movie set in Saudi Arabia about a schoolgirl and her desire to own and ride a cycle. A beautiful and delicate insight into a young child’s mind and how her thinking is both understood and misunderstood. This is a movie which underlines, for us as teachers (or parents), the importance of keenly observing and listening to the child.
Ground Hog Day (1993) – Director: Harold Ramis
What is this comic-romantic-philosophical movie doing on this list? One, it reminded us of our school where most days were just repetitions of the previous day. This movie will wake you up to create new realities, will force you to step out of your belief system and conditioning, and will help you look at children afresh so that your tomorrow and your life is more exciting and rich.
Miracle Worker (1962) – Director: Arthur Penn
The real story of Anne Sullivan’s struggle to teach the blind and deaf Helen Keller. It’s a teacher’s classic with many takeaways every time you watch it. The most important being that many a times we need to match the child in terms of her energy, her stubbornness, and her feelings. That teaching is not about what is right and what is wrong (we are not holier than thou), but it is more about what IS, what CAN BE and hence it’s about exploring because each child has immense possibilities. A must watch.
Mr Holland’s Opus (1995) – Director: Stephen Herek
Do you really believe teaching is not just your job but your destiny? This movie is all about teaching not just being a job, but being life. No inspirations here, this is the REAL meaty stuff teaching is made of. How a music teacher who works and encourages so many different children, falters when it comes to his own challenge and how all his students elevate his journey to a different level. Very moving.
School of Rock (2003) – Director: Richard Linklater
Another music teacher, but a completely different setting. Watch this one not so much for profound insights but for a comic parable of how a misfit non-teacher can change the life of well-bred well-disciplined students. A movie that in many ways questions the very structure of our education system and invites us to flip to the other side more often and rock with kids. Prim and proper is not necessarily the best attitude a teacher can have!
Children of a Lesser God (1986) – Director: Randa Haines
Unlike many other teacher-student movies this is a romantic movie, with the unconventional teacher and his relationship with a deaf student. Very well acted, it’s a beautiful movie to watch. It also has this one dialogue that has affected our lives as teachers more than any other: “Until you let me be an I the way you are an I, you can never come into my silence and know me.”
To Sir with Love (1967) – Director: James Clavell
While this is a popular good teacher changes bad children movie, we included it here more because of the genuineness of the teacher. The range of emotions the teacher goes through from tentativeness, to being lost, to developing affection, despair, excitement, and yes connectedness. The last one perhaps the one that most successful teachers cherish more than anything else.
Sound of Music (1965) and Mary Poppins (1964)
Most of us do not need any introduction to these two classics from yesteryears. Both have magical ladies who refuse to see the world the way world wants them to see and who are ready to, in sometimes crazy and many a times sublime ways connect with the children’s world and choose that as the real world (which we think it is). Both movies pure joy.
The authors run an open unschool called Aarohi and invite all readers to visit and see how open learning can be an amazing way to work with children. They also conduct training retreats and online training for teachers and parents. Visit www.aarohilife.org.