We Do This Every Day: Movies About Teaching

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The thread title isn't from a movie about teaching; it's something baseball manager Earl Weaver once said. Some teachers, when they have a bad day with the class, they come back the next day and do team-building exercises. I'd write those words on the board and tell them about Earl Weaver.

I've thought about one day trying to write a book about this subject. One of my first steps was going to be an ILX thread just to solicit titles. If I ever follow through, this thread can be used for that. For now, it's just a general thread.

I saw The Teacher's Lounge tonight, a German film up for an Academy Award. I wouldn't say it's great, but it certainly held my interest. A lot of what happens has happened to any grade-school teacher--it just takes all that and jam-packs it into a few days. The part I'll remember most is the ending, which I should have seen coming. It lands on the most obvious metaphor imaginable for running a classroom--not necessarily for teaching itself; the two are the same and not the same--which also happens to be exactly right.

My two favourites: To Sir with Love and School of Rock--which, yes, as improbable as it is, is about teaching.

https://i.postimg.cc/52vppxKc/dennis.jpg

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 00:16 (two weeks ago) link

By the way, the film is actually called The Teachers’ Lounge. I had to make sure to get at least one punctuation mistake in there.

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 00:18 (two weeks ago) link

Pretty sure I saw Stand and Deliver five or six time in Middle & High School.

One of the most famous, but I've never seen it.

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 00:45 (two weeks ago) link

All sorts of white teachers and urban kids films (Michelle Pfeiffer, Tom Berenger, Jim Belushi, Hilary Swank...).

Summer School - comedy with young Mark Harmon, crushable Courtney Thorne-Smith, pre-Cheers Kirstie Alley when all I'd seen her in was a Tom Selleck sci-fi film. Also two goofball guys who skated mostly on the right side of funny/annoying.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Monday, 5 February 2024 00:46 (two weeks ago) link

idk if this counts but that one where ryan gosling is a heroin-addicted teacher aka Half Nelson

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Monday, 5 February 2024 01:37 (two weeks ago) link

Good Will Hunting

m0stly clean (Slowsquatch), Monday, 5 February 2024 02:10 (two weeks ago) link

Some others I like: Être et avoirs (2002 documentary), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (not as much as the novel), and Up the Down Staircase (see photo above). There's another one from 10 years ago, maybe Polish, directed by a woman, and the teacher in it rode her bike to and from school...can't remember the title or the director. Don't remember much from Half Nelson except that I think I found it improbable that he managed to keep his heroin habit hidden. (I basically quit drinking when I started teaching because I knew it wasn't going to be a job that leant itself to hangovers.)

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 02:48 (two weeks ago) link

Election

omar little, Monday, 5 February 2024 03:06 (two weeks ago) link

Some films are just set in a school as opposed to being about teaching.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Monday, 5 February 2024 03:08 (two weeks ago) link

Right--something I considered when thinking about a book, whether I'd want it to be a large-scale compendium of films with scenes inside classrooms, or a much narrower look at films specifically about teaching. Election seems to me to be somewhere in the middle.

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 03:20 (two weeks ago) link

Dead Poets Society

Glower, Disruption & Pies (kingfish), Monday, 5 February 2024 03:23 (two weeks ago) link

There's a big Wikipedia list where I found the film I couldn't remember: Maren Ade's The Forest for the Trees from 2003. It really stayed with me--I think she was just starting out and felt overwhelmed by the job, which was basically where I was when I saw it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwMcKCL2sJc

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 03:28 (two weeks ago) link

Bottoms Up (1960)
Boys Will be Boys (1935)
The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950)
Carry on Teacher (1959)
School for Scoundrels (1960)
Bottoms Up (1960)
Please Sir (1971)

Ward Fowler, Monday, 5 February 2024 09:24 (two weeks ago) link

Double bummer

Ward Fowler, Monday, 5 February 2024 09:24 (two weeks ago) link

Wake up folks, "Goodbye Mr. Chips" of course.

The British Boy of Film Classification (Tom D.), Monday, 5 February 2024 09:47 (two weeks ago) link

The Browning Version

Ward Fowler, Monday, 5 February 2024 09:50 (two weeks ago) link

Conrack

buzza, Monday, 5 February 2024 10:58 (two weeks ago) link

The Kindergarten Teacher is a pretty good treatment of the moral dilemmas a teacher faces when they discover a gifted student

imago, Monday, 5 February 2024 10:59 (two weeks ago) link

I would argue that a lot of Penda's Fen is about teaching

imago, Monday, 5 February 2024 11:06 (two weeks ago) link

Kindergarten cop

Boris Yitsbin (wins), Monday, 5 February 2024 11:25 (two weeks ago) link

Institute Benjamenta

glumdalclitch, Monday, 5 February 2024 12:16 (two weeks ago) link

Serpent's Path (1998)

glumdalclitch, Monday, 5 February 2024 12:17 (two weeks ago) link

Was just coming to post Être et avoir/To Be and to Have and saw that you already named it. Love that thing so much, and although I wasn't explicitly conscious of it, I realize that it almost certainly inspired me to move into the educational field.

Great-Tasting Burger Perceptions (Old Lunch), Monday, 5 February 2024 12:28 (two weeks ago) link

Truffaut's L'Enfant Sauvage

Ward Fowler, Monday, 5 February 2024 13:10 (two weeks ago) link

Kurosawa's Madadayo

m0stly clean (Slowsquatch), Monday, 5 February 2024 13:15 (two weeks ago) link

Tom Brown's School Days

The British Boy of Film Classification (Tom D.), Monday, 5 February 2024 13:37 (two weeks ago) link

Twenty-Four Eyes (Nijū-shi no hitomi)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-Four_Eyes

Based on a famous Japanese novel. I recall it being quite weepy and sentimental, for what it's worth. Hugely popular in Japan!

Marky DeSade (Matt #2), Monday, 5 February 2024 14:06 (two weeks ago) link

Monsieur Lazhar

rob, Monday, 5 February 2024 14:09 (two weeks ago) link

Detachment on Letterboxd https://boxd.it/2BiY

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Monday, 5 February 2024 14:44 (two weeks ago) link

Don't know if you remember the last shot of the retiring teacher in Être et avoir, OL, but it was great. I saw The Browning Version ages ago--late '70s, probably, on TV--but remember thinking it was good. Was neutral on The Class, which got some attention a few years ago (shot like a documentary but not). Didn't see either version of The Kindergarten Teacher, but should. Still have to see Conrack, too.

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 14:45 (two weeks ago) link

Is there much actual classroom stuff in Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life? Can't remember.

clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 20:29 (two weeks ago) link

Sidebar: Prez in S4 of The Wire.

I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Tuesday, 6 February 2024 10:26 (two weeks ago) link

Good one--I think that was my favourite storyline in The Wire.

clemenza, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 15:18 (two weeks ago) link

Most high school based comedies have classroom scenes typically with the teacher played for laughs (Ferris Bueller, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, etc). Not sure I remember any with a sympathetic teacher.

that's not my post, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 15:53 (two weeks ago) link

Most high school based comedies have classroom scenes typically with the teacher played for laughs (Ferris Bueller, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, etc). Not sure I remember any with a sympathetic teacher.

that's not my post, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 15:53 (two weeks ago) link

Short film about teaching: You're Human Like The Rest of Them by B.S. Johnson.

emil.y, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 15:59 (two weeks ago) link

V similar vibe to Carry On Teacher in that one.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 16:04 (two weeks ago) link

Thought about that earlier but thought it was far too obscure!

The British Boy of Film Classification (Tom D.), Tuesday, 6 February 2024 16:04 (two weeks ago) link

Not mentioned yet?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m18DXIpl7T8

Teachers - Arthur Hiller, 1984

weatheringdaleson, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 16:08 (two weeks ago) link

^^^ Saw that in theaters. I guess my dad wanted to see it, because I was 13 when it came out and it wouldn't have been my choice.

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Tuesday, 6 February 2024 16:16 (two weeks ago) link

Pretty bad, as I remember it.

Fast Times: another never-acted-upon dream of mine was to return a set of math tests, stare out balefully at the class, and bellow "What are you people--on dope!"

clemenza, Tuesday, 6 February 2024 23:36 (two weeks ago) link

I saw The Teacher's Lounge tonight, a German film up for an Academy Award. I wouldn't say it's great, but it certainly held my interest.

Your post had lowered my expectations, but I just saw it and liked it quite a bit.

jaymc, Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:04 (one week ago) link

Is there much actual classroom stuff in Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life? Can't remember.

― clemenza, Monday, 5 February 2024 20:29 (three days ago) link

I think there is at least one scene at the school, but it's been years since I've seen it. It does feature the immortal line "I'm a school teacher, not a plumber!" when James Mason is facing a money issue

intheblanks, Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:12 (one week ago) link

Great threat, I'm a K-12 teacher too and I kind of hate "teacher films" but I will also always watch them

intheblanks, Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:12 (one week ago) link

thread, lol, not threat

intheblanks, Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:13 (one week ago) link

This one may be a long shot, but maybe Kiarostami's "Where is the Friend's House" The film is frameed by classroom scenes and the action centers on a homework assignment, and it's about education in a more broad sense

intheblanks, Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:14 (one week ago) link

I think Election is about teachers, in the sense that Alexander Payne thinks that teachers are pitable losers living unfulfilling lives, terrain he revisited a few years later in Sideways lol

intheblanks, Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:34 (one week ago) link

I grew up with two public school teacher parents, whose table talk at supper often featured 'shop talk'. I attended public schools from K-12. I married an elementary school librarian whose job was so stressful we spent most nights talking about how to cope with her principal and her aides. Then, in my fifties, I spent six years driving a school bus for K-8 kids. My life has been saturated in this stuff as much as anyone could be who hasn't spent a lifetime teaching.

As a result I guess I've never thought too hard about how any particular film represents teachers and schools, because nothing that could be said in 120 minutes could amount to much when laid against all those years of personal and referred experience.

more difficult than I look (Aimless), Thursday, 8 February 2024 04:39 (one week ago) link

I don't expect even the best movies about teaching to get everything in there (I've been at it for 33 years now), but isn't that true about any film on any subject? I find different parts of the puzzle scattered across many films.

clemenza, Thursday, 8 February 2024 06:07 (one week ago) link

The Miracle Worker. But that features an action sequence that couldn't be better suited to the film medium.

How do other films do with the day-to-day grind of teaching? Has anyone succeeded this process look good to the camera?

Infanta Terrible (j.lu), Thursday, 8 February 2024 13:43 (one week ago) link

Glad you mentioned that. After I posted last night, and thinking about aimless's post, that's the part of teaching that really is impossible to get right in a film (see thread title): not necessarily even the day-to-day grind, but just the day-to-day ordinariness, the long stretches where nothing of interest happens. (True of any job, obviously.) I took the thread title from Earl Weaver, and a school year and a baseball season actually do seem comparable to me. A school year runs about 180 days, a baseball season 162 games. There are highlights and critical points, but mostly it's just we-do-this-every-day, and "this" isn't all that eventful 90-95% of the time.

clemenza, Thursday, 8 February 2024 13:51 (one week ago) link

I think Election is about teachers, in the sense that Alexander Payne thinks that teachers people are pitable losers living unfulfilling lives

ftfy. at least he did at that stage of his career.

i do agree though that it is about teachers, if not teaching, particularly in the secondary theme of how matthew broderick's teaching content intersects with the hijinks of the main plot. the recurring theme of ethics vs. morals is one of the more clever bits of comedy in the film, how he navigates his shifting feelings about and commitment to the two respective categories

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Thursday, 8 February 2024 13:52 (one week ago) link

The other thing is, Broderick is a born teacher. He loves it--even after his life falls apart, he's still at it, trying to get those kids in the museum interested in what he's talking about.

clemenza, Thursday, 8 February 2024 13:54 (one week ago) link

speaking of Broderick, I love the scene in Margaret where he's sucking on a juice box like a pacifier while his student presents an addled but sort of interesting theory about the "like flies to wanton boys" line in Lear

rob, Thursday, 8 February 2024 14:12 (one week ago) link

oh yeah duh has Margaret been mentioned in this thread yet

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Thursday, 8 February 2024 14:17 (one week ago) link

The Holdovers, also by Alexander Payne

Robert Adam Gilmour, Saturday, 10 February 2024 23:58 (one week ago) link

Arthur Hiller’s TEACHERS (1984) hasn’t aged a day. Incredible how the same ssues about educators’ unions and abortion just never fucking change in America. Plus, Crispin Glover, Laura Dern, Ralph Macchio, and Nick Nolte all drive in a car together

beamish13, Sunday, 11 February 2024 00:16 (one week ago) link

I’m re-reading Cormier’s The Chocolate War with my class and loving Keith Gordon’s film (which I was lucky to see in 35mm) all over again. God, Tom Richmond’s photography is incredible, and it has maybe the single best soundtrack ever

beamish13, Sunday, 11 February 2024 00:17 (one week ago) link

Not the film's main focus, but Looking for Mr. Goodbar has some excellent classroom scenes (Keaton teaches deaf children).

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 05:04 (one week ago) link

“Not the film’s focus” = 😳massive understatement if I’ve ever seen one

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 06:04 (one week ago) link

But it's not inconsequential, either. It's a crucial part of the mystery that is Keaton's character: we see her at her job, with her family, and then exploring the world the film is synonomous with. If you took the teacher out of that equation, the character wouldn't be nearly so interesting.

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 06:08 (one week ago) link

Leo McCarey usually put in scenes where someone teaches something to someone, and it's one of the best things about his work. As explained here:

https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2002/great-directors/mccarey/

To see just one place where improvisation is found, a survey of McCarey’s work shows a fondness for scenes where one person teaches another. In The Milky Way, Harold Lloyd is taught to box and, later, he gives a society woman lessons on how to avoid a punch. Roland Young’s drumming lesson in Ruggles of Red Gap leads him to true love. In Going My Way, Bing Crosby teaches Carol the street girl and, later, a group of tough kids how to sing. In The Bells of St. Mary’s, Ingrid Bergman teaches a kid to box. Nazis coach Cary Grant, in Once Upon a Honeymoon, on how to deliver a radio address with “shpontanuity.” Almost all of his mature films (and some of the earlier ones) have teaching scenes.

Though it’s impossible to confirm, most of these scenes are likely improvised, and it’s not hard to see why McCarey, as a fan of improvisation, returns to this device. Lesson-giving has a fantastic structure for improvisation: one person leads, the other follows, each has flexibility in what they do and say, and there’s a reactive nature to the enterprise. In McCarey’s universe these scenes produce gently comic results – we see someone make mistakes, which we can laugh at, but it is within the safe environment of a lesson instead of “real life.” The moments are funny without being cruel. Indeed, that mistakes and failure are allowed and forgiven is a concept that, no doubt, McCarey had personal sympathy for. He was, after all, someone that attempted careers in boxing, law, mining, and songwriting before becoming a filmmaker. That he’s able to create scenes where we can laugh at someone without resorting to ridicule points at McCarey’s characteristic generosity.

birdistheword, Sunday, 11 February 2024 06:11 (one week ago) link

Looking for Mr. Goodbar’s early scenes set at the university and her sexual relationship with the professor are excellent as well. Just saw it theatrically last year. A 4K home video release is coming soon. Richard Brooks was one of the great American filmmakers

beamish13, Sunday, 11 February 2024 06:15 (one week ago) link

Just read up a bit on the book. I knew it was based on a true story, but didn't realize how closely-- Roseann Quinn, the real-life Theresa, taught deaf children.

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 06:31 (one week ago) link

Tom Berenger got his own film to shine as an instructor, The Substitute. As far as urban schools-as-war films go, it’s not as entertaining as The Principal with James Belushi and Louis Gossett, Jr., but it has some hilarious moments

beamish13, Sunday, 11 February 2024 06:52 (one week ago) link

the focus isn't on teaching but 'playground' from a couple of years ago might be the best film I've ever seen set in a school.

oscar bravo, Sunday, 11 February 2024 07:06 (one week ago) link

Yeah idk about Mr Goodbar being a teacher movie in spite of that being her profession AND a true story — the shocking brutal unforgettable ending erases everything that comes before it to my mind. You spend all this time getting to know this woman, she’s out there in the singles bars looking for companionship, she is brutally murdered, story over. I don’t care if this is a spoiler tbh. She could have been a grocery store clerk or an office worker or a librarian or a teacher but regardless she gets brutally murdered the end. That’s just my pov and I’ve read the book and seen the movie albeit years ago.

I’ll stop arguing if someone would agree that this is a story about a woman who gets murdered. I would categorize it as a story about the ubiquity of brutal misogyny, which is why I’m bristling about it being related in any significant way to the profession of teaching.

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 16:21 (one week ago) link

I've only watched Goodbar in crap YouTube uploads, so I could use a 4K upgrade.

I'm watching The Teachers' Lounge this week

poppers fueled buttsex crescendo (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 11 February 2024 16:34 (one week ago) link

Tom Berenger got his own film to shine as an instructor, The Substitute. As far as urban schools-as-war films go, it’s not as entertaining as The Principal with James Belushi and Louis Gossett, Jr., but it has some hilarious moments

187 is the best of these.

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Sunday, 11 February 2024 16:58 (one week ago) link

LL: she does get brutally murdered, yes--in the movie, in the book, in real life. But she's also a teacher, and that's in the movie, so...I don't see how that isn't therefore part of the movie. I specifically began by saying "Not the film's focus," which didn't seem to be strong enough wording for you. I didn't give those four words a great deal of thought.

The moment in the movie where LeVar Burton's younger sister runs back into the room on Keaton's first day to hug her, I find that very moving. (With hardly any lines, I think Burton's really memorable in Goodbar.)

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 20:44 (one week ago) link

Or, to put it another way, if we learned that Keaton was a teacher only in passing, and that was it, and the whole rest of the film was about her cruising bars, I never would have mentioned the film in this thread. But classroom scenes must take up around 10 minutes of the film.

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 20:48 (one week ago) link

187 is great. The Russian roulette scene is pure lunacy. Kevin Reynolds is a hugely underrated director, and I adore Fandango (1985) and The Beast (1988). The latter is a very sympathetic (!) look at Soviet soldiers stuck in Afghanistan based on a terrific play that I would kill to see on stage

beamish13, Sunday, 11 February 2024 22:47 (one week ago) link

"Not the film's focus," which didn't seem to be strong enough wording for you. I didn't give those four words a great deal of thought.

right -- and thank you for agreeing that it is a story about a brutal murder. for me, a young woman at the time of reading/seeing it, the murder stuck with me far more than anything else about the movie. the film/book/story has way more to do with the ubiquity of brutal misogyny than it does about teaching. it stuck with me because I felt it was a cautionary tale. it did not whisper, but screamed "this could happen to you. be careful." As a comparison, I feel like I would not categorize Grant Hawrt/HD's"Diane" as a song about a waitress (even though it is), I would categorize it as a song about a woman who is brutally murdered. to place it into "songs about waitresses" seems wrong to me too.

i'm done! thank you for reading and considering my perspective. carry on!

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:13 (one week ago) link

goddammit i mistyped Grant Hart
ugh

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:14 (one week ago) link

Fair enough, but is there anything in "Diane" where we get a glimpse into the waitress at work, learn what she's like on the job, how she relates to customers, etc.? Difficult for a three-minutes song. Goodbar does that, and--for me--makes the brutal murder that much more painful.

Contribute to the thread, please! You're a teacher, so ideally suited for this.

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:18 (one week ago) link

i am contributing my sharing my perspective

I thought Kindergarten Teacher was an excellent look at the emotional complexities of teaching. Wiseman's Multi-Handicapped gives a truly inside view of a teaching environment most people don't even consider. I heard recently that there's a tiktok conspiracy that Helen Keller wasn't real, some kind of hideous ableist nonsense. It's a great antidote to that sort of thinking imo.

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:26 (one week ago) link

dammit!!! my = BY

anyway i am done making my point. and no, there is nothing in the song "Diane" about waitress life but it crossed my mind as a similar story and i don't regret bringing it up though i do regret my typos, a lot.

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:27 (one week ago) link

I plan to watch Wiseman's High School again, which I saw long ago and didn't like as much as many films of his I would see later. Pretty sure he doesn't like it either--I read an interview where he said something like he went into it with preconceived notions about education that he wanted to get into the film, rather than filming and letting the film go wherever it went.

clemenza, Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:30 (one week ago) link

I think High School II is good but i really loved High School

Piggy Lepton (La Lechera), Sunday, 11 February 2024 23:35 (one week ago) link

Didn't know he revisited...hopefully on Kanopy with all the rest.

clemenza, Monday, 12 February 2024 00:05 (one week ago) link

Wiseman’s original High School is one of the most horrifying films I have ever watched

Another good one, albeit more about a school administrator than a teacher: Clockwise (1986) starring John Cleese

beamish13, Monday, 12 February 2024 00:36 (one week ago) link

Only takes up maybe five minutes of the film, but there some nicely understated scenes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower between Charlie (grade 9) and his English teacher, played by Paul Rudd. They bond right away when Charlie writes down a correct answer to one of Rudd's questions (Charles Dickens) but is too shy to raise his hand. And, of course, what every teacher secretly wants, Charlie telling him at the end that Rudd's the best teacher he's ever had. (Sincerely--primary-level kids will tell a supply teacher that if you give them 10 minutes of free time.)

clemenza, Thursday, 15 February 2024 03:42 (six days ago) link


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