The Hollywood Model
Hollywood has created an archetypal teacher that appears in
most movies about education. Dalton writes that the “teacher is a main
character that 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” (21). Dalton uses this
foundation to detail specific traits movie teachers display to make them
superior educators, and these traits are often magnified by placing a
good teacher within a failing administration surrounded by struggling
and uncooperative students.
The first characteristic of the good teacher is that he or she is
an outsider (25-6). This sense of disunity is meant to evoke an underdog
mentality in hopes that the audience will be compelled to root for the
success of the teacher. Second, the good teacher is involved in the
personal affairs of their students (28-9). This has two significant
implications. It serves as a metric to track the growth of the students
and the teacher while simultaneously bringing the teacher into conflict
with the administration. A common scene in these movies involves
Hollywood teachers needing to make a choice about the advancement
of their personal careers or a decision about whether to use the
opportunity to align with the administration at the expense of the
students’ wellbeing. In these scenes, the good teachers almost always
sacrifice their own gain for their students (32-3). Hollywood strives to
portray the relationship between student and teacher as mutually
advantageous. Again, the contrast between the teacher protagonists and
their colleagues is important because the rest of the faculty in these
movies actively shuts down mutual growth of the featured teacher and
student(s). Finally, good teachers personalize the curriculum. They use
unconventional means in an effort to engage with students. This
approach is usually seen as necessary because the traditional methods
of teaching have failed the students for years, which positions the
featured teachers as the last chance to reach the students and change
their lives (36-7).
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