Announcing New Edu-flicks at the Library

Announcing New Edu-flicks at the Library
Tim Siftar
March 8, 2007
As a teacher ed student, who do you recall as outstanding educators from your own personal experience? I'll bet every teacher ed student gets asked to reflect upon this topic more than once during their first few introductory courses. When faced with the same question I have more than a few good ones to fall back on. Lots of scholarly literature exists on the value that students take from "modelling" the professional behavior they are exposed to by their teachers and mentors. For teachers especially it feeds into presentation style, classroom presence, authoritativeness, discipline - all sorts of issues that can influence their success. Well, just in case you can't recall any good teacher influences from your past (just kidding!) or want to sample the repertoire of classroom personas that Hollywood has synthesized in their movies- you're in luck!

I am pleased to introduce Drexel Libraries "Edu-flicks" collection! Find them in our DVD collection. You can browse the full list below - or click here for an imprecise search that pulls up a few of them.

Now you can take a few cues from teacher portrayals that have been brought to the big screen. Yes they're a bit stereotypical. But they still have useful aspects - especially when you consider how so many kids have been programmed by the images they've seen in movies! I'm not saying you will inspire your own Dead Poet Society overnight by morphing into Robin Williams. But he may have a few moves you could use! Or think about how you could refer to these as archetypical characters in your research papers. Whatever. I enjoyed selecting some of these classic videos and DVD's and actually viewed a bunch when they arrived. I threw in a few documentary-style classics for good measure. I'd love to hear what you think of them - or if you have suggestions for other classics we should have!

(Reviews followed by a full list of recent purchases)
Lean on Me
The classic story of a bad high school that turns around under the tough love tactics of a maverick principle who doesn’t shy from exercising authority. It features a commanding performance by Morgan Freeman. This is the ONE eduflick to watch if you want a double dose of moral outrage and inspiration but you’ve only got one hour. Themes:
education administration – command & control style, crisis intervention, risks of authoritarian style, teamwork, behavior modification, community relations. Best scenes: confronting an out of control auditorium full of students, challenging a failing student to make good, exerting authoritarian discipline at a staff meeting, underscoring discipline with an otherwise loyal faculty member, unflinching straight talk at a parent meeting to overcome local politics – plus a fairy-tale happy ending!

Scenes from High School
Feeling out of touch with the teenage reality? Need a reminder of what your high school students are experiencing around awkward issues such as social acceptance, dealing with authority, negotiating gender roles, friendship and intimacy issues? Then I recommend this unvarnished documentary approach is “Scenes from High School.” The title is accurate in so far as the film does not tell one continuous story but is a compilation of individual unrelated scenes, each no more than five or ten minutes long. The scenes are filmed using actors, but you almost wouldn’t think so. It captures the awkwardness, non sequitors, groping for understanding and warm flashes of friendship that can occur among high schoolers. This video could serve as a table of contents to many of the most difficult topics confronting this age group. Excellent for anyone seeking “teaching vignettes” to use in discussions or assignments on teen issues. Each scene can be a powerful case study or reminder for teacher education students. Best viewed in smaller doses – when seen altogether the entire video is almost overpowering and the message of each piece can lose their impact.

I am a promise: the children of Stanton Elementary School
It's a documentary so the drama has rough edges as they follow a few real elementary school kids from a gritty Philly neighborhood. Quite a few heart wrenching scenes as you see six and eight year old kids acting out it ways that anticipate problem behaviors to come. The principal is a star as she seeks to intervene constructively, but with some inconclusive results. Not particularly entertaining, but the real deal! It was interesting to google some teachers education video ethnographies after seeing this one – to find interesting examples such as this from BYU.

Stand and Deliver
This one has enough gritty reality in it to make a compelling drama without using any Hollywood devices. Describing the true life story of Jamie Escalante in Garfield High School in LA portrayed by Edward James Olmos, this movie stands as a testament to the power of reaching students on a personal level. In it he uses humor and innovative math instructional methods to challenge students to perform who the educational system has more or less written off. Let the fact that the star has scant support and a heart attack while doing so serve as a cautionary note! Highly watchable – just wish it had footnotes to innovative math teaching techniques such as those used widely by the Mathematics Association.
See here for a more in-depth review.

Dangerous Minds
– Includes some of inventive tactics for making school curriculum culturally relevant to students. While based on a true story*, this screen interpretation of the original book probably plays better to
the Hollywood audience than the actual details might work out for a real inner-city high school class. But the sentiment of a committed teacher using her wits seems real, even if a bit more Hollywood. But who knows? Teachers might find a trick or two. Very watchable. Check out this review for more. *My Posse Don't Do Homework, (1992) by LouAnne Johnson

That’s all I’ve got time to share right now. But there are plenty of movie reviews available on the other classics I purchased for the collection this year, so I encourage you to explore some of the links I’ve included below.

Stand and Deliver (1988) Starring: Edward James Olmos, Estelle Harris Director: Ramón Menéndez
Lean on Me (1989) Starring: Morgan Freeman, Beverly Todd Director: John G. Avildsen Rating
Mr. Holland's Opus (1996) Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headly Director: Stephen Herek
Dangerous Minds (1995) Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, George Dzundza Director: John N. Smith
Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999) Starring: Helen Mirren, Katie Holmes Director: Kevin Williamson
A Hero for Daisy - Starring: Chris Ernst; John Kerry Director: Mary Mazzio
School of Rock (2003) Starring: Jack Black, Adam Pascal Director: Richard Linklater
School Ties (1992) Starring: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon Director: Robert Mandel
School of Life (2005) Starring: David Paymer, Ryan Reynolds Director: William Dear
Rock 'N' Roll High School (1979) Starring: P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten Director: Allan Arkush
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) Starring: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh Director: Amy Heckerling
Voices from the High School (2002) Starring: Renée Beck, Mark Bernard Director: Joe Gillis
I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School (1993)
Dead Poets Society (1989) Starring: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard Director: Peter Weir
The Emperor's Club (2002) Starring: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch Director: Michael Hoffman
Good Will Hunting (1998) Starring: Robin Williams, Matt Damon Director: Gus Van Sant