Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To My Teacher

I despise the depiction of teachers in film. "The Dead Poet Society"? I wanted to vomit and would have run from the theater had I not been in attendance with a group of friends. "Mr. Holland's Opus?" Richard Dreyfuss should have been beaten. "Dangerous Minds?" What? An alternative school with Michelle Pfeiffer? Yeah...yeah that was believable. I liked the part where a student crept into her apartment window----and she let him stay.

Most films about teachers are horribly maudlin. I can imagine my kids sitting at home and watching Robin Williams reading poetry and commenting: "Yeah, that's sort of how Stew is..only more sensitive, more understanding." I can picture them watching "The Great Debaters" and whispering: "Stew's like that...only more inspirational."

Okay..so who are the best teachers on celluloid? The following is a top seven in no special order, from a teacher's perspective. Now keep in mind I teach alternative education, so....it might be a little twisted.


1. Jon Stewart as Prof. Furlong from "The Faculty", a school where the staff has been taken over by aliens and the student population truly has something to fear.

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Det. John Kimball from "Kindergarten Cop". Okay. Arnold was actually a cop undercover as a teacher, but hey, you have to give him points for making a bunch of kindergarden students cry. "IT IS NOT A TUMAH!!!""YOU LACK DISCIPLINE!!!"

3. Ben Stein as the un-named Economics Teacher in "Ferris Beuller's Day Off". Not a big role, but who can resist the dead stare of a veteran educator who has dealt with indulged adolescents for way too long. "Who can tell me about what GNP stands for? Anyone? Anyone?"

4. Ray Walston as Mr. Hand in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High". Here was a teacher's teacher. A rather sadistic individual who gave out failing grades with aplomb. No ego too fragile to shatter.

5. Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi. Okay...maybe more of a tutor but the guy taught both Darth Vader AND his son. Montessori? There is no try, there is only DO.

6. Tom Hanks as Capt. John H. Miller in "Saving Private Ryan". Okay, he wasn't a teacher in the film, but hey, if I'm going to be represented by someone let it be Tom Hanks. Apparently before the war, Miller was an English teacher at Thomas Alva Edison High School in Addley, Pennsylvania.

7.Alan Rickman as Severus Snapes in the Harry Potter series. Yeah, he's not a nice guy, and he's going to be doing some awful things...but come on...the man knows how to inspire youngsters.

13 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Cool idea for a post. I should have thought of this. I'd probably put Arnold from Kindergarten cop at the top of my list.

What about Treat Williams in "The Substitute?

Stewart Sternberg said...

The Substitute..the story of an ex-CIA agent who poses as a substitute teacher to find the toughs who abused his wife. It's sort of "Death Wish" meets "Goodbye Mr. Chips".

SQT said...

Kindergarten Cop is probably my favorite Arnold film. Well, other than Terminator.

I wasn't a warm fuzzy teacher either. I have the opinion that kids don't need teachers, or parents to be friends, they need them to be examples.

But the best on-screen teachers are not necessarily good examples. Matthew Broderick in "Election" comes to mind. He was so fun in a demented way.

Another good teacher would be Mr. Miyagi in "Karate Kid?" Though my kids prefer Jack Black in "School of Rock."

Avery DeBow said...

Mr. Hand is one of my absolute favorite characters. He reminds me of my AP U.S. history teacher--a surly, frightening man one would never want to disappoint or cross. It was an odd thing to discover after two years of hating him, his fact sheets, and the three index card boxes he made us carry for an entire year that he was my favorite teacher.

Travis said...

Mr Hand should be #1. And I would suggest Minerva McGonnegal from HP as a counter to Severus Snape.

What about two teachers from a favorite film of mine, School Ties? Specifically, the French teacher Mr Cleary and the history teach Mr. Gierasch.

Jon said...

Best teacher on the screen? I always admired Ms. Choksondik fro South Park. Go Cows!

Zoe Winters said...

hehe, I think that irritates everyone when there are inaccurate movie portrayals. What about movies about writers?

Something that irritated both me and Tom, and I'm not even that big of a geek was: The first Jurassic Park film, that girl goes and she's looking at this computer and says: "This is a Unix system, I know this!" Like it's that simple and some 10-12 year old girl could just figure out ANYTHING that involves Unix, no matter what the personal computer set-up.

It was inane.


And I think has remained a running joke amongst Unix users ever since.

Kate S said...

Ah, Stewart, I love Snape.

I also thought Filch the caretaker would have made a good teacher, too. :)

Donnetta Lee said...

Yes, Tom Berenger in the Substitute. He could be my substitute any old day. Boy, at my school we have some looloos. I wouldn't want them teaching my kid. A few warm fuzzies but they are mostly fake. A few tough guys. A few who just don't give a shit one way or the other. D

Stewart Sternberg said...

SQT
No one beats Arnold. Could you imagine a high concept film about a school where all the teachers are played by action stars. The Rock, Bruce Willis, Angelina Jolie, Kristin Bell...what a strange movie.

AVERY and TRAVIS
Mr. Hand should teach educational theory.

JON
Ah yes, leave it to Jon. You're right, the South Park teachers are the best. I also like the nurse with the conjoined twin.

KATE
Snape would be a great alternative education teacher.

DONETTA...yeah, hmmmm. I'd offer to take my shirt off if I thought it would help.

Virginia Lady said...

I agree, most teachers in movies are horrible. I too liked Snape, but I also was amused by Sybill Trelawney, the divination teacher, and Ben Stein's role will forever be an cultural icon.

We made a point of showing Ferris Bueller to our teens so they would understand the references. They loved it.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Not sure if this counts since she wasn't official, but Jane Fonda's Iris was a memorable teacher. Could be my undying affection for Robert De Niro clouding my judgement :)

Worst teacher in film...Mr. Vernon (The Breakfast Club)

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