Blogs, Teacher Leadership

My Favorite Teacher Movie

What Is Your Favorite Teacher Movie?

Before I answer this question, I’d like to give you one movie that did not make the cut, but I love it nonetheless.

Lean On Me-
I love this movie first because I remember watching it as a child with my family. Although I cannot personally relate to majority of the film from a student perspective nor from an educator perspective, I genuinely appreciate the transparency of the film. Watching it, I felt like I was a student at Eastside High School.  The principal, Mr. Clark pushed his students to strive for better, not to settle for mediocrity and to prove those that doubted them wrong.  He was passionate about getting students to understand that they did not have to be products of their circumstances/environments.  This is a very powerful concept that all teachers should relay to their students.  As educators, we are sometimes oblivious to what our students are going through.  Being a military brat myself, former military wife, and a teacher/mentor of military students for the last 10 years, I know the warning signs attributed to military deployment and the stressors of being a military child.  However, I have never had a student in my classroom become pregnant or go days without food.  Watching the movie with my family and seeing the stress that these real-world situations placed on the students at Eastside High School, made me want to ensure that I worked hard to not have those situations happen to me.  Finally, Mr. Clark never gave up on his students.  He might have grew weary and tired but he never gave up on them.  He always had hope that they were going to pass the test and continue their academic pursuits.  He was a father figure to some, a coach, a cheerleader, a mentor and a friend to others.  He gave his students hope.  Their ability to see someone who looked like them, make it and accomplish his dreams, was very encouraging to them.

Now for the movie deemed as my favorite teacher movie… SISTER ACT 2!  I absolutely love this movie.  If you have never seen the movie, let me give you a quick rundown.  In the 1st film, Deloris, a nightclub singer was placed in witness protection at a church, after watching her boyfriend and his associates kill a man.  I bet you are saying to Teacher Movie

Now you might be wondering what this has to do with teaching and students, which gets me to Sister Act 2.  In the second movie, Deloris is again singing, but now she is a headliner in Las Vegas.  Life is amazing and she is loving it but she is soon visited by her friends (Nuns) and they are in dire need of her assistance (again). The school they are teaching at in their local community is in need of a music teacher and they could not think of anyone better to take the position than Sister Mary Clarence.  Once again, Deloris puts on her veil but this time she returns to the Catholic school that she attended as a young student, as a music teacher.  From the moment she walks in the building, she is met with obstacles.  No materials, no curriculum, her room is in the basement and is in horrible condition, she does not have the support from the administration, and if that is not bad enough, her students are out of control!  Her colleagues offer her words of wisdom and prayers before she even enters the classroom.  She walks in and the classroom is complete chaos.  Her students have torn up all of the music workbooks and attached them to the ceiling. They decide to play a prank and glue Sister Mary Clarence’s bum to a chair.  At that very moment, she could have thrown in the towel, but she did not.  Even after the students were quite rude and disrespectful to her, she went to the administration demanding to get textbooks for her students.  She spoke on their behalf and put their needs first.

Sister Mary Clarence used her knowledge of music to connect with her students.  At first, it was difficult to break down the walls her students had placed around themselves but she used her inviting personality and love of laughter to get them to realize she was human and she just wanted to teach them.  Although she had to redirect unacceptable behavior and remind her students that she was the adult in the room, she always did it in a respectful manner.  The highlight of the movie comes when the teachers and students are notified that the school would be closing at the end of the year.  The nuns heard of a choir competition happening just a few cities over.  Sister Mary Clarence got her students to agree and took the idea to the administration.  They loved the idea but would not provide the registration costs.  So what does she do, she took it to the streets!  She and her fellow nuns got the community involved in order to support the students with the goal of saving the school.  They raised enough money and the students began rehearsing harder than ever.  They practiced day and night.  They rehearsed and received one-on-one and group lessons.

It was finally time to leave, the students loaded up their robes and were on their way.  When they arrived, they were immediately overwhelmed.  They had never seen so many choirs.  The venue was huge and the audience was intimidating.  As they watched a few groups go before them, they were instructed to take off their robes.  Perplexed by this, they complied and removed their robes.  They walked on the staged dressed like teenagers and blew the audience away.  The act was original, passion-filled and unique.  Hence the reason why Sister Mary Clarence had them remove their robes.  She wanted them to feel comfortable, she wanted them to standout, but most of all she wanted them to be themselves.  They gave an amazing performance and won 1st place.  The students were all so grateful to Sister Mary Clarence for her support, love and for not giving up on them.

There are 6 key themes that make this my favorite teacher movie:

  1.       Sacrifice- Deloris placed her amazing singing career on hold in order to help deserving students. She returned to her old neighborhood and to her school wanting to help make a difference.  So many times as educators, we end of making sacrifices.  Whether it’s missing your child’s basketball game, or not being able to make it home for Friday night family meal time because you have poetry night at school, we all make sacrifices.  Although sometimes very difficult, we know that it is sometimes necessary.
  2.       Determination- Even after seeing the condition of her classroom, the behavior of her students, and the lack of support from her administration, Sister Mary Clarence still put one foot in front of the other and returned every day with the desire to teacher her students.  She could have easily walked away and went back to her wonderful life of singing and entertaining but she did not give up on them and in the end, they did not give up on her.
  3.       Communication- When she felt unsupported or when she noticed that her students did not have materials/equipment they needed in order to be successful, she took her concerns straight to her administration.  She did not sit around and complain for days in the teacher’s’ lounge about it.  I am very fortunate that I have had amazing administrators that listened to me.  Even when I was bringing concerns to them that weren’t the easiest to mitigate, they listened.  Teachers should always feel comfortable going to their admin and admin should assist in brainstorming ways to remedy the problem or concern.  It’s all about collaboration.
  4.       Respect- When redirecting negative behavior, she was never mean to her students.  She always respected each of them and their very unique personalities.  She never made a student feel inadequate or unworthy of being in her class.  Students have feelings, and from my observations once you’ve hurt their feelings, it is hard to keep them engage.
  5.       Stakeholder Involvement- We all know that schools are not successful when you do not have buy-in by all stakeholders.  Sister Mary Clarence successfully involved students, colleagues, administration, and community members in an event that raised enough money to send the students to LA.  This is proof that when we come together, with a plan and support one another, we can do great things for our students.
  6.       Acceptance- When Sister Mary Clarence asked her students to remove their robes right before going on stage, she sent a message loud and clear… YOU ARE WORTHY.  It did not matter what they looked like, they were deserving of the opportunity and should be judged on their stage presence and sound.  She wanted them comfortable and to be themselves.  This was an amazing moment in the movie that resonated with me.  As a teacher, I want my student to look their best, but I also want them to be individuals.  I believe that is the message she wanted to send.  Allow the people and the judges to see you.

There is so much more to this movie and you might not see it the same like me but that is the beauty of it all.  It you have a differing opinion, please please please comment so we can discuss.  

Take a Bite of Learning Every Day

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Teacher Movie”

  1. My favorite teacher movie is Mr. Holland’s Opus–showed how educators have to balance being a parent and a teacher–and sometimes you feel like you can help your students more than you can help your own child. But in the end–his son understood his dedication to music and education and they found common ground–I cry every time!! Thanks for sharing this blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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