THE EMOTIONALLY SUPERLATIVE STUDENT
In the final of the broad student categories, a large portion of
the remaining teacher films focus on the emotionally superlative
student. From watching a number of these films, it becomes evident
that this student category presents the greatest challenge to
conceptualize and define because of the breadth of interpretation
associated with emotional intelligence. The films included in this sector
pose an interesting case study. When an emotionally superlative student
wise beyond his or her years is featured, the teacher figure deviates from
the good teacher model in a number of ways or ceases to exist in a
meaningful way in the student’s life because of his or her level of
maturity. The three models that emerge are student-centered rather
than teacher-centered and include the unlikely teacher (from narratives
in which the student takes on the role of the teacher), the self-directed
student (who does not need the support of a teacher), and the wise
student. The following films reflect the various ways in which the
teacher may interact with an emotionally superlative student.
The 2006 revisionist film Half Nelson provides an interesting
perspective on the complexities present in a modern student-teacher
relationship, and this film depicts a student-teacher relationship that
touches on each of the three models associated with emotionally
superlative students. In this startlingly original teacher movie, middle
school history teacher Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) fits many of the traits
associated with “good teacher” according to The Hollywood Model: he
personalizes curriculum and delivers innovative lessons that deviate
from standardized curriculum while making him an enemy of
administration (Dalton 24). While viewers can tell he truly cares about
his students, his drug addiction and unstable behavior outside the
classroom are juxtaposed with his good teacher persona and add a new,
dark side to the good teacher model. One of his students, a girl named
Drey (Shareeka Epps), who is also on the girls basketball team he
coaches, catches him in the locker room after a game when he is high.
Drey struggles with pressures from her community to get involved in
drugs as well, but she proves to be a strong example of an emotionally
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