We love these underdog stories of how inspirational people take control of a troubled or challenging group of kids and turn them into studious and well behaved human beings. Although Hollywood likely play these stories up for the love of ticket sales, there is still something about these special dramas that tugs at the heart strings of us all. The following are a few of my personal favourite triumphant teacher tales.
To Sir with Love
I recently had the privilege of seeing this performed on stage here in the UK where I currently reside. To Sir with Love is the true story of Richard Braithwaite and his experience teaching in the touch inner city schools of East London. Braithwaite struggled immensely in the beginning to gain the respect of the students as well as other members of staff. However, gradually he begins to change the attitudes of those around him as well as his own. Sidney Poitier plays Richard Braithwaite in the film version of the story which is equally good as the stage show. The story is very moving, emotional with lots of comedic moments brought in.
Stand and Deliver
Stand and Deliver is based upon the life of Jaime Escalante, math teacher in the Los Angles public schools. In the film version of the story, Jaime Escalante convinces inner city youths not only the value of remaining in school long term but also trains them to be highly skilled mathematicians. His students put in the hours both before and after school to take the advanced placement calculus exam of which they all pass. In the story, the students face a challenge. Their first set of test scores are question due to how well they performed. He convinces the students that rather than getting angry to prove themselves and sit the retake. They of course do and emerge victorious. Stand and Deliver teaches us the lesson of underestimating people and rising to face your critics.
Mr. Holland’s Opus
Mr. Holland’s Opus is more a story of a teacher’s journey to discover his own talent while inspiring his students and colleagues. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss who portrays a man entering teaching as a second career choice. He struggles terribly in the beginning until he learns what it is he can share with his students, his love of music. 3 decades of American history make up the background of the story with generations of students entering and leaving his class. The story ends with Mr. Holland’s retirement and him finally realizing the value of his gift of teaching.