Dangerous Minds, and so on…

Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers, Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver, Blackboard Jungle…

You know the movies about teachers in urban schools.  Here’s the teacher, and they usually walk in unknowingly and are at first totally shocked, and here are the students:

of color, impoverished, rude, rowdy, gang affiliated, pregnant, academically behind, abused, violent, and checked out.

The teacher does something creative, like karate, to gain their trust and get them to be quiet in class.

The teacher pours over her work, breaking her or his heart, sometimes getting fired, risking relationships because everything is about being a teacher, but in the end, is lauded a hero.


During Professional Development one year, in this case I’m talking about the week (or two) before school that we are in training, a presenter talked to us about these movies.  He was from outside the district, he got paid to do this, whatever, and he stood in front of us in a room and talked about the harmful effect on us of these movies.  His basic point was that we are set up by these movies to be heroes and in fact we are only human.  people can look at us when they hear our school is not doing well and think:  Well, why don’t you just do what Michelle Phifer or Hilary Swank did?  And what happens when we do all those things and still there isn’t the big success of everyone passing a difficult math test or everyone graduating…?

I agree.  One myth from these movies that needs to be busted is that we can’t do it on our own.  There should be and sometimes is a whole network.  School adjustment counselors for one.  Our administrative team, other teachers in the building who usually are doing the same things we are.  Outsiders shouldn’t see example after example of a whole apathetic school and one teacher who cares.  It’s not like that.  For the most part, the majority of the teachers in the building care and are doing the right things the best they can for their students.  That’s been my experience with my colleagues, any way.

And people need to know, our heroic efforts don’t always pay off with a blatant win at the end.  Sometimes we plant a seed that sprouts a long time later.  I always really hated it, but loved it, when a fellow teacher would tell me that so and so was doing really well in her class and that kid always fought me tooth and nail and I had to fail him.  Sometimes that time in their life is just not a time when they can listen to you.  Sometimes they need enough consistency before they can own it for themselves and change.  Sometimes I just annoy certain kids and I’ll never win them over.  We don’t jive with everyone all the time.

But something else always infuriated me about those Dangerous Mind type of movies.  To be honest with you, I didn’t mind the whole being painted as a hero thing too much.  I had to get a feeling of validation somewhere!  No, it was the picture of an average classroom that is always painted in those movies:


of color, impoverished, rude, rowdy, gang affiliated, pregnant, academically behind, abused, violent, and checked out.

Yes, yea, that’s about right.

But what they never show is this part:

Check in for part two tomorrow.



One thought on “Dangerous Minds, and so on…

  1. I usually do not watch movies like this because Hollywood is locked into the same tired formula. Even Sister Act 2 followed it. I know that real life can happen this way, but as in sports stories there has to be an almost critical failure right before a smashing success!

    Liked by 1 person

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