When most people hear the word ‘education,’ they think of sitting in a classroom or otherwise hitting the books. However, as an Education major, you likely already know that there are many different ways to learn, one of which includes watching movies.
For instance, one study conducted by researchers from the University of Lisbon in Portugal shares how emotion can improve our mental state and that watching movies can help prompt positive emotions. They can also change our perception of the world and increase our levels of motivation.
What types of movies serve these types of purpose, inspiring future educators like you to not only find ways to share your knowledge with students, but to do it in a way that can potentially cause them to change the course of their lives dramatically? Here are a few to consider as they are some of the best education-based movies of all time.
Lean on Me
While this movie was released in 1989, Lean on Me is still enjoyed by Education majors today because it highlights many of the struggles that exist within the educational realm. From battling with school administrators who don’t understand the realities of teaching versus meeting state-mandated goals to trying to reach students who don’t always have the best home lives, this movie hits them all when Joe Black (played by Morgan Freeman) is hired as a new principal at a school that is in absolute disarray, both physically and behaviorally. And it does it in a way that leaves you feeling inspired that, no matter what obstacles you face during your education career, you can have a major impact on others, inspiring them to do some pretty amazing things.
Dead Poets Society
Admittedly, a majority of learning does take place in the classroom, especially when earning a diploma or degree. However, Dead Poets Society, also released in 1989, shares the value of teaching outside the box. In it, English teacher John Keating (played by the late Robin Williams) helps his students develop a greater thirst for learning by doing unorthodox things such as asking them to rip up their books and encouraging them to stand on their desks so they understand that sometimes you have to look at life differently to get where it is you want to go. Watching this movie definitely helps reinforce the notion that sometimes effectively teaching students—and learning more about ourselves—requires taking a different approach.
Stand and Deliver
Based on a true story, Stand and Deliver is a 1988 film which shares the story of how one math teacher at a high school in East Los Angeles, Jamie Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos), worked hard to change the culture of his school using encouragement and motivation to help the students reach their academic potential, only to then have them face the scrutiny of those who felt that their newfound success wasn’t a result of hard work, but rather cheating. What did Escalante do to change their minds? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
Mr. Holland’s Opus
A little newer than the previous movies, Mr. Holland’s Opus was released in 1995 and is a story of a man by the name of Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss) who is tired of being a professional musician. So, he takes a new position as a music teacher. Not only does Holland face a number of the struggles that sometimes exist in education—such as when teaching a subject that other educators may not take seriously, which is Holland’s case—it also portrays how these can cause struggles at home. That makes this film inspiring on many different levels.
Based on the autobiography “My Posse Don’t Do Homework,” Dangerous Minds shares how a retired U.S. Marine deals with challenges sometimes presented in the education profession. In it, LouAnne Johnson (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) leaves the armed forces and applies for a teaching position, only to soon learn that gangs and drugs were keeping her from effectively reaching her students, a majority of whom were from backgrounds unlike hers. Johnson finds a method to communicate with her students in a way they understood in attempt to make a greater impact in the classroom. And make an impact she did.
This 2007 film focuses on Erin Gruwell (played by Hilary Swank) who just got her first teaching job at a school in Long Beach, California. Originally, this school was known for its high academic standing, but its new integration program changed the classroom dramatically by including many children who were barely literate. Striving to understand the plights of these new students, many of whom were involved in gangs and gang activities, Gruwell works hard to get to know her students better and subsequently gain their trust. One way she does this is by assigning them the task of writing in diaries. Thus, Freedom Writers was born.
There are many insightful and thought-provoking movies that not only share the realities of teaching, but also just how amazing this profession is because it really can change lives. For students and educators alike.