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The Cinematic Representation of the Personal and Professional Lives of Teachers

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            The cinematic approach to the representation of the personal and professional lives of teachers  through school films is maybe the means of expression of thoughts and feelings of teachers. By putting an expression to the relation of these cinematic films with daily teaching activities of teachers and the equity and social justice issues of the society lead the way to the understanding of the concept to create an attitude focus on issues in relationship to the everyday activities of an educator. A critical reflection is aimed in focusing on the professional aspect of teaching but also the social justice related to the profession.

             One problem which challenges the approach of using school films to effect on the teachers’ minds is the lack of teaching experience for practicum teachers. This lacking experience may limit the teachers’ critical reflection of the viewing approach. As teachers watches school films, this produces answers to the film’s basic questions of  who, what, where and when. Their inability to respond critically to more important issues of how and why is affected by this lacking experience. This failure can further effect a lack of understanding the teacher’s profession. The cinematic approach  of the teaching profession can strengthen their observation and critical reflection of the film they have seen and watched. This applies to their personal lives outside of school as well.

            The reflection of popular culture’s cinematic representation of teachers provide meaningful realization to society, especially to those on the teaching profession and also to students as well.

Realizing the Importance of Cinematic Representation

            Movies or cinematic representations have become very helpful tools to society. There are so many things that a movie could cohere in one’s personal life, whether it be his/her own opinion or just the realization of things that were never understood before. Movies bring people something that some have failed to see or have seen but not truly incorporated in life. There are so many varieties of cinematic representations including so many topics that could vary from almost any idea that the mind can think of. Along with these topics is the topic of education or teaching. There have been so many cinematic representations about teachers and other classroom-related depictions. With these being shown to society, many people adhere and realize things that were failed to be realized before.

Realizations with the Help of Cinematic Representations

            For most people, perceiving teachers as the typical educators and ordinary people who provide lessons for students has become one of the most stereotypical conclusions that man has ever came up with. We have become students ourselves and we view our teachers the way we experienced them. But not each and every one of us realize the whole truth with regards to the personal and professional lives of teachers. For some, they may have perceived  their teachers negatively based on their relationship with that teacher on the classroom but these people fail to realize what goes on beyond the four-walled classrooms.

            “Students, parents, and everyone else (except perhaps those adults who are able to observe teachers in various schools) have a very limited frame of reference for evaluating curriculum as it is played out in the classroom. Knowledge of this type   tends to be based on personal experiences or on anecdotal conversations with others about their own personal experiences. I do believe, however, that general knowledge      about the relationships between teachers and students, knowledge beyond the scope of      the personal or anecdotal, is created by constructs of popular culture played out in the    mass media.” (Dalton 2).

            Such is the impact of a movie to society that it can affect a person’s life or even just his opinions in a matter of 2 hours. With regards to movies that present teachers as the main characters or the main focus of the film, it gives society the chance to take a second look or a closer look to what teachers might really be. It provides students, on-lookers or even teachers themselves, the insights and messages that may have been undermined before.

            The importance of films about teachers or educators serve as films that carry something special. They are not just any ordinary entertainment for people to see, but rather, they provide a given spark that could light up every person’s perspective with regards to teachers or the whole teacher-student relationship factor as well. A seemingly simple film may serve as a very fruitful one for people who could relate dearly with that film.

            These films not only reflect what are seen on the classrooms but they also give people a closer look on possibilities regarding educational situations, real-life realizations, and even personal interpretations. So if one asks, “What difference does it make?” Well, the answer is a lot. First, take for consideration the realizations of the lives of teachers and what they go through with regards to their professional and personal lives. Some may have overlooked this matter. But films assist people to realize matters concerning this topic.

Professional Aspect of Teachers in Movies

            These films are the ones that provide people a depiction of teachers as mainly workers and educators. Films of these matter reflect the daily lives of teachers in the typical manner that people see them. Though some films focus on this aspect, the great account regarding the dedication and professional capability of teachers are massively in the forefront.

            “Some school films mainly depict the professional lives of teachers, with only a few (if any) personal life scenes in them. In such films, the teacher is the central figure,  and  nearly all of the action takes place in or around the school, or in some kind of relation to school affairs. When we do see the teacher outside of school, we usually see him or her engaged in activities directly related to teaching, such as grading   papers or visiting the home of a student.” (Tier 132).

            But despite this, the films that tackle this matter still profess the work ethic of a teacher. The dedication and sacrifices of teachers are largely taken into consideration with regards to these films. Samples of these films are “To Sir, With Love”, “Up the Down Staircase”, “Dangerous Minds” and “Dead Poets Society”.

            Through the years, films have depicted teachers in a way that categorizes them into somewhat a negative and a positive way. Most films though take teachers as the guiding light that inspires the students towards reaching their goals both educationally and personally. Most of the cinematic representations concern a teacher or teachers that fight a system that has been corrupted, like an administration group and battle it all out with his or her personal views alongside the group of students.

            “In the process of looking at 116 films with teachers as either primary or important         secondary characters, it quickly became evident to me that Hollywood dichotomizes      teachers and teaching into the “good” and the “bad.” In the case of “good” teachers,          these characters are almost always written to conform to a pat standard I have chosen    to label the Hollywood Model. In roughly half of the films I have watched, the teacher is a main character who is presented as a “good” force in the movies, painted against a       backdrop of institutional and societal woe and positioned as markedly different from     most of the other teachers and virtually all of the administrators in their respective       films.”(Dalton 22).

            These representations somewhat derive out of the truth regarding schools or classrooms that have been affected by present situations.  Teachers can learn from these as somewhat as a platform for inspiration. Sometimes, the whole message of these films is to give something to people, and provide people enlightenment. For teachers, these films provide the suggestive form of initiative to create change or affect people to change.

Personal Aspect of Teachers in Movies

            There are films that take on the personal side of the teachers life. These films assist people in realizing why teachers decide to teach and why teaching has become their chosen profession. Films that tackle this matter are the ones provide the more deeper representation of a teacher’s life. These films are the ones that showcase a different aspect of the story of a “typical” teacher. It helps people to be enlightened on what are the possible life situations of teachers that lead them to what they are. Examples of these films are “Waterland” and “This Is My Father”.

Realization with Regards to the Classroom Environment

            Most of these films also depict the environment of classrooms. Particularly, the types of students and the their backgrounds are more represented in these kinds of movies. These films reflect what possibly go on in classrooms and the schools in a collective way as well.       There are films like “Coach Carter” that display student athletes that fail to realize the importance of college education in the beginning. Many of these types of movies showcase the importance of the message of going to college. Like in “Coach Carter”, data are given regarding students who fail to graduate and the percentage of students going to college. These movies are the ones that present the truth about present day educational situations. Another film that present a tough environment is “Sister Act”. In the movie, headed by Whoopi Goldberg, the students are reflected as somewhat disinterested in education in the beginning but in the end, finding their way with a better perspective regarding the subject. “The Substitute” is also another film that presents a group of students with a tough environment.

            Though in reality there are no complete resemblance of the said movies, the possible situations presented by this movies are somewhat indicative of what may be the truth regarding some schools in the country. All in all, such films as these are very helpful tools to people in order for them to realize the possibilities concerning classroom environments.


            Overall, films do leave marks to people. With regards to cinematic representations that concern education and teaching, these films are the ones that can bring out realization to people, especially the students and the teachers themselves. For some, viewing a teacher or a class may be concluded or perceived accordingly based on personal experience. For others, movies are their tools to see or realize things regarding these matters aside from their own personal experiences. Thus, cinematic representations takes a large responsibility in such a way that it can clearly affect a person’s perspective regarding different aspects of life. Thus, there are many different movies that showcase educational situations and the professional and personal lives of teachers. There are many movies that present teachers as the lead characters or main focal points of the story. These films help people realize the undermined aspects of the lives of the teachers, the classroom environment, and the overall aspect of education.

            With regards to these movies, they have become very useful tools for educators alike to utilize in their classroom activities. Different teachers have made good use of these movies in order to provide the students the realizations and bring questions to their curiosity of education and teaching. These films have become forms of assistance tools that help students come up with ideas or analytical conclusions. Thus, such movies as  “Waterland”, “This Is My Father”, “To Sir, With Love”, “Up the Down Staircase”, “Dangerous Minds” and “Dead Poets Society” are worth taking a look at.


Cates, Ward Mitchell. “Helping Students Learn to Think Critically Detecting and Analyzing     Bias in Films.”. Social Studies 81 (1990): 15.

Dalton, Mary M. The Hollywood Curriculum: Teachers in the Movies. New York: Peter             Lang, 2004.

Halstead, Jate. “How Popular Culture Depicts Teaching”. 2008. 8 August 2008


Manke, Mary Phillips. Classroom Power Relations: Understanding Student-Teacher       Interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1997.

Trier, James D. “The Cinematic Representation of the Personal and Professional Lives of           Teachers”. Teacher Education Quarterly 3 (2001): 127-142.

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