The course syllabus suggests that students in the class might find it instructive to view and report on a movie to meet the engagement report requirement.  Acceptable movies are listed below with a brief indication of their content to aid in your selection and some thoughts to stimulate your reflection.  Feel free to comment on points other than the ones I mention.

In addition, site links are provided, where possible, to extend your analysis of these films and some of the ideas they contain.  The site links are an eclectic collection of reviews, interviews, product promotions, web pages created by fans, criticisms, ideas for use in the classroom, and alternative points of view.  Exploration of these sites will enhance your experience when viewing the films.

While many of the movies are available in video stores for rent or purchase, a cheaper source for locating the films would be the public library.  If your local library does not have the title, the librarian may be able to locate the movie from another library and allow you to obtain the film through interlibrary loan.

Below is a list of the films with the initial release date.  Click on the title to view a set of short remarks about the film and the study/review enhancement links.

Note:  Any film with a double asterisk (**) has been selected as an example of a well-written report to be viewed by students in the course.   Click on the person's name to see a copy of the engagement report that person submitted to give you further ideas on how you might approach this task.

Pride (2007)
Freedom Writers (2007)
The History Boys (2006)
Gridiron Gang (2006)
Take The Lead (2006)

Coach Carter (2005)
The Emperor’s Club (2002)
**Remember the Titans (2000)** by Kylie Sponseller
Music of the Heart (1999)
October Sky (1999)
Rusty Bridges (1999)
Dangerous Minds (1995)
**Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)** by Debbie Jacobson
The Browning Version (1994)
**Dead Poet's Society (1989)** byAndrea Dreier
Lean on Me (1989)
Stand and Deliver (1988)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Conrack (1974)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)
Up The Down Staircase (1967)
To Sir With Love (1966)
High School Confidential (1958)
Blackboard Jungle (1955)

PRIDE - This film is set in the early 1970s and is loosely based on the true story of Jim O. Ellis III, a swimming coach in the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. The film contains words and images offensive to some viewers but illustrate the severity of the racism faced by young black swimmers growing up at the time and attempting to participate in a "white" sport.   The real Jim Ellis, who also teaches math at a Philadelphia high school, makes a cameo appearance in the film. Mr. Ellis' middle initial stands for Oliver, but his swimmers (who number up to 150 a year) began substituting "Olympian" since Ellis had five Olympic Trial qualifiers.

1.Review by Joseph Santoliquito in Black History Month

2.Film Review by James Berardinelli

THE HISTORY BOYS - What is the purpose of education? This film, a screen adaptation of Alan Bennett’s Tony Award-winning play, is set in the early 1980s and follows a group of history pupils and they prepare for entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers with contrasting styles.  The film challenges the viewer to reflect on the overall role of education . . . do I teach students to be successful in school or successful in life?  Are they note the same thing?  To quote the view of one teacher:"The school gives them an education. I give them the wherewithal to resist it. Examine a boy and he is tamed already. Only examine him and you can tax him, empanel him, enlist him, interrogate him and put him in prison. You have only to grade him and you have got him."

1."The Purpose of Education" by Eleanor Roosevelt

2."The Purpose of Education" by Martin Luther King, Jr.

GRIDIRON GANG - This film is loosely based on the true story of the 1990 Kilpatrick Mustangs football team. Camp Kilpatrick is a detention facility located in Malibu, California for juvenile delinquents with multiple offenses, such as gang violence. Is it possible that, even in extreme cases, teenagers dealing with difficulties in their lives can overcome these fears and frustrations using self-discipline and school involvement?  Probation officer Sean Porter decides that he can help give the inmates guidance and self-esteem through football. With help from a fellow counselor, he attempts to lead his troubled players to victory--both on and off the field.  The subtitle of the film says "One Man Can Make a Difference" . . . do you believe . . . ?

1.Gridiron Gang: Making Fact-Based Inspirational Story

2.Camp Kilpatrick

FREEDOM WRITERS - Do students matter?  Is every student worthy of a great education?  How can caring teachers connect the world of the streets to the world of academics?  What are the costs in terms of time, talent and money?  Who pays?  This firm is based on a true story of at-risk students attending Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach, California from 1994 to 1998.  When you teach, what costs (in terms of your own time, money and family) are you willing to pay?  If not you, who?

1.Get on the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961

2.The Anne Frank Center, USA

TAKE THE LEAD - What motivates some teachers to want to teach unteachable students?  What do these teachers see that others do not see?  What drives them to continue to teach students who do not want them to be involved?  This film is based on a real person, Pierre Dulaine, a professional dancer who uses ballroom dance to teach inner-city kids discipline and respect.  Starting from a single school, he (and his 34 teachers) currently reaches nearly 7,500 10 and 11 year-old elementary school children each year.  As you view the film, try to figure out why Pierre becomes involved and stays involved.  Do people have to share similar backgrounds in order to relate to each other?  What is his background?  As you explore his own personal motivation, look at your own.  Do you want to teach kids who are only like yourself?  How do you think you will react to unteachable kids.  Will you give up on them until they improve their motivation?  Will you ignore them?  Will you reject them?  Will you send them to detention?  Will you "take the lead" as a teacher?

1.Dance Education Web

2.The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)

MUSIC OF THE HEART - What are reasonable expectations for students?  How does a teacher determine this?  Should we expect more from some students than others?  This film is also based on a real person, Roberta Guaspari, a divorced mother of two who struggles to create a music program in East Harlem.  As you view the film, pay close attention to the perspectives of the her students, her students' parents, her fellow music teacher, and her principal on the value of music education.  Who has the most realistic perspective?  Whose perspective is most influential?  Why?  Reflect on Guaspari's instructional methods.  What elements made her effective or ineffective?  Provide your own ideas on providing effective instruction to reluctant learners in non-supportive environments.


The third resource in this list was provided by Danielle. Danielle is a high school junior in the Rocky Mountain west. She and her classmates have been using these pages as part of a class project. Thanks for the contribution, Danielle . . . you have added your own "Music of the Heart" to benefit the exploration of teaching by others.

Julianne, who is working as a junior counselor in a youth music program in the Northeast, also found these links to be of use. She did some research and indentified Open Universiity (a company incorporated by Royal Charter in England and Wales) as a site containing useful information and suggested adding that link to this list. Let it be so! This link is listed as the fourth resource below. Thanks Julianne!

1.Opus 118 Harlem School of Music

2.MENC - The National Association for Music Education

3.Free Music Resources for Educators and More!

4.Open University (music history, famous musicians and resources for teaching kids about music)

COACH CARTER - What should be the goal of a high school coach?  Success!  Ken Carter (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson) was himself a successful basketball player at Richmond High School and he now returns to his old high school as coach.  As the new coach, he wants to create a successful program.  What coach would not?  Coach Carter, however, believes it was his academic education that made him successful in life and he struggles to encourage his players (as well as their parents, the school board, and teachers at the school) to put "education before recreation."  Coach Carter wants players to see beyond their hoop dreams and create a real future with options and possibilities.  As you view the film, reflect on how you might help athletes and community members see that having a winning season is less important than having a winning life.  Reflect on Coach Carter's view that short-term goals, even if achieved, are only important if they produce long-term success.  Or, perhaps you disagree?  Perhaps you believe "this is only Hollywood, not real life."  Explain your own thoughts on changing a student's motivation.

1.Closing the Achievement Gap: Two Views from Current Research. ERIC Digest

2.Learning to Change : School Coaching for Systemic Reform

THE EMPEROR'S CLUB - This film explores the developing relationship between a history teacher (Mr. Hundert, portrayed by Kevin Kline) and his students (one student in particular).  Hundert sees his principal role as molding boys into young men of superior moral character, using the historical figures he has identified as models.  Hundert’s goal of improving both the minds and characters of his students raises the question of whether it really is a teacher’s place to take an interest in the characters of his students.  One of his student's parents tells Hundert, “Your job is to teach my son his times-tables … You, sir, will not mold my son!” As you view the film, reflect on the goal of character development versus the goal of academic achievement.  Are the goals related as Hundert believes?  Why or why not?  How do you project your own involvement in this controversial area as a teacher?

1.Character Counts

2.The Potential of Role Model Education

REMEMBER THE TITANS - Produced in 2000, this film is based on real events surrounding a 1971 court order which forced a high school to integrate its student body and faculty for the first time.  While the integration issues raised are interesting, the coaching philosophies of Coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) and Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) are in direct opposition.  Which coaching philosophy do you think is most effective in the long run . . . for the team and the individuals on the team?  Which coaching philosophy do you think results in the most wins for the school?  Which builds the most trust and respect?  Are these separate or related questions in your mind?  Explain.

1.Beyond Winning: The Timeless Wisdom of Great Philosopher Coaches

2.Sports: When Winning is the Only Thing, Can Violence Be Far Away

HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL - Also known as "The Young Hellions", this 1958 film digs deeply into 1950s high school drug scene.  This is a hard-to-find film is prized by cult fans who enjoy its "campy" plot and panned by critics who refer to it as one of the most ridiculous films ever made on the subject of teenage drug use.  This film was supposedly based on a true story.  Producer Albert Zugsmith promoted the film's moral message . . . that teen use of pot was "a cancer that can spread like wildfire" and that smoking marijuana invariably leads to heroin addiction.  As you view the film, reflect on how much knowledge you have on the current elementary, middle, and high school drug scene.  Is this knowledge based on fact?  What do you see as your role of teacher in this scene?

1.University of Michigan Survey That Tracks Drug Use by 8th, 10th and 12th graders

2.Resources for Teaching About the Dangers of Drug Abuse

RUBY BRIDGES - Made-for-television Disney film (1999 video copyright) dramatizing the first year schooling experience of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first black student ever at the all-white William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960, and the work of Robert Coles, who had researched the effects of stress on children and who couldn't help but wonder what this little girl was going through.  Coles' research on the effects of desegregation on Ruby (and later three other girls a federal judge had selected to attend all white schools) and other studies of Children in Crisis would serve to be the foundation of his career as a child psychiatrist, Harvard professor, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.  As you view the film, reflect on the achievements and failures of 40 years of school desegregation.  What social stresses do today's school children deal with on a daily basis?  How do they cope with this stress?  What should/can teachers do to assist in this coping process?

1.1997 PBS Ruby Bridges Hall Interview Transcript "A Class of One"

2.The Ruby Bridges Web Site

THE BROWNING VERSION - British film made in 1994 (a re-make of the 1951 black and white film of the same name) based on the 1948 play by Terence Rattigan.  Portrays an embittered teacher near the end of his career.  After 20 years of teaching, the man is being forced to retire on the pretext of health reasons.  The boys in the prep school dislike him while his wife enjoys belittling him any way she can.  How did this man who once loved teaching come to this professional end?  Can he come to terms with his failed life and regain his own self-respect?  How will you yourself avoid the "burnout" which affects many teachers? (Phillip Charles Mendel, citing Holt, characterizes teacher burnout as "a loss of concern for and detachment from the people with whom one works, decreased quality of teaching, greater use of sick leave, efforts to leave the profession, depression, and a cynical and dehumanized perception of students.")

1.1994 Review by Hal Hinson of The Washington Post

2.Teacher Morale

CONRACK -  This 1974 movie is based on the Patrick Conroy's book The Water is Wide.   A young, male, white teacher volunteers to teach in an elementary school on one of the isolated Barrier Islands off South Carolina's Atlantic coast.  He finds ignorance among his students and a racist school administration which will not tolerate innovative educational techniques.  Reoccurring themes from the movie involve dealing with superiors and lack of funding in rural areas.  How do you plan to deal with the less-than-supportive school administrators for whom you might work or conditions that fail to provide for adequate resources?

1. Teaching Guide James A. Frieden and Deborah Elliott

2. Rural Education

TO SIR WITH LOVE - Produced in 1966 and staring Sidney Poitier.  An engineer by training, he takes a teaching position in a London school where he becomes "Sir."  The students he finds there come from poor socio-economic backgrounds and he struggles to help his students find value in education.  The song based on the film's title, sung by British pop star Lulu, was a top-20 hit.  One focus of the film concerns building mutual respect between the teacher and the class.  Another focus of the film is on recognition and respect of differences among the students themselves.  How will you achieve this?  Will you celebrate differences or avoid addressing them?

1.How to Make 'Teacher Caring' Effective

2.The "Nappy Hair" Controversy

BLACKBOARD JUNGLE - The oldest movie on the list, this 1955 black and white film stars Glenn Ford as an educator confused and disturbed by the kids he finds in his classroom.  While adults today often point to the "good old days" of education, this film creates quite a different picture as Ford's idealism fades under the tensions that rip his classroom apart.   Interestingly, Sidney Poitier is in this movie, too -- as a student, not a teacher.  This film was banned in some cities at the time because it was feared it might trigger violence.  What does it trigger in you?  Were the good schools of the past really as good as people remember them to be?  Explain.

1.Movie Review by Destitute Gulch

2.School Violence Research

THE BREAKFAST CLUB - Made in 1985, this movie is considered a modern classic regarding teenage peer relationships and school culture.  Five high school students with quite different perspectives and personalities are required to spend one Saturday together in school detention.  As they interact with each other, what messages do you see about high school students as people and what judgments can you make about the importance of the subject matter education you plan to provide in their lives?

1.Peer Influence and Peer Relationships from FOCUS ADOLESCENT SERVICES

2.Research Article on Peer and Cross-Age Tutoring

LEAN ON ME -  Joe Clark was a real-life high school principal who received a tremendous amount of national press in the late 1980's and early 1990's.  His controversial approach to running a school -- dealing with students, interacting with teachers, and talking with the larger community -- is portrayed in this 1989 drama.  Morgan Freeman plays Joe Clark, an educator who wields a baseball bat and bullhorn to motivate underachieving students to keep their acts together.  His approach to discipline was admired by some and deplored by the others.  How about you?  Do you advocate this approach?  How will you deal with classroom discipline/conflict?

1.Joe Louis Clark Web Site

2.The Effective High School Principal: Sketches for a Portrait

THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE - Maggie Smith received a Best Actress Academy Award Nomination for her 1969 film portrayal of Jean Brodie, a flamboyant, unconventional teacher at an exclusive girls school set in 1930's Scotland.  As Miss Brodie tries to instill in her young girls the truth and beauty in literature, art, and history, her unorthodox methods bring trouble to herself and her students.  Like Miss Brodie, many teachers proclaim a desire to improve the minds of their young students, to help develop their character  -- see any problems?  Are girls best educated in exclusive schools "of their own" . . . that is, away from boys?

1.Center for the Education of Women

2.The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls

STAND AND DELIVER - In this 1988 movie, James Edward Olmos portrays the real-life math teacher Jaime Escalante.  Escalante challenges his students to compete in the real world by motivating and preparing them to pass the A.P. Calculus test.  Do you believe that all students, regardless of background, can be provided with a high quality learning experience which leads to success in the world outside the school?  Who, and what, determines the nature of this experience?  How do you feel about standardized testing as a means to determining the achievement of learning goals?

1.Mathematics Education Resources

2.Are High-Stakes Tests Punishing Some Students?

DEAD POET'S SOCIETY - Robin Williams stars in this 1989 movie as a teacher whose charisma and love of poetry inspires several teenage boys -- not only to refocus their study of poetry, but to refocus their lives.  This film raises an important question for all teachers.  Does the vision of "the good life" advocated by the teacher outweigh the one desired by the parent?  What factors need to be considered?

1."Dead Poet's Society" Home Page by David Nicholson

2."Teaching With Charisma" by Lloyd Duck (advertisement)

DANGEROUS MINDS - Michelle Pfeiffer stars in this 1995 movie about Louanne Johnson, a true-life former marine who enters high school English teaching.  Ms. Johnson wants to reach her students, but she struggles with her new job and meets resistance from the kids and the administration alike.  Ms. Johnson has some interesting ideas and approaches related to teaching.  To what extent can you identify with her methods of reaching the students?  What might you do differently?

1.Michelle Pfeiffer Interview on "Dangerous Minds"

2.Review of "Dangerous Minds"

MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS - This 1995 film spans the whole career of a music teacher, Mr. Holland.  Richard Dreyfuss stars as Mr. Holland, an aspiring composer and musician who takes a job teaching music at a local high school to give him time to work on his real love -- music composition.   He plans to leave teaching as soon as possible to pursue the work he really wants to do.  Are you, like Mr. Holland, choosing teaching for something to do until something better comes along?  Are you clear as to your own motivations on your choice of teaching as a field of study?  How, and when, will this clarity be achieved? Thanks to Jessica Allen for the suggestion to create the ethnomusicology link!

1.Engage Your Students with a Little Ethnomusicology

2.A Career in Teaching - Voices of Teachers on Teaching

UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE - As the title suggests, there are many rules to be learned about working in schools that are not covered in teacher education classes.  Sandy Dennis stars in this 1967 movie about a beginning teacher fresh out of college.  Billed as a comedy, it none-the-less reflects the "trials and tribulations" that most young teachers experience with the students and faculty on their first teaching job.  For you as a future teacher, is a potential fearful induction into the teaching profession really a laughing matter?  What do you plan to do about it?

1.Resources for the New Teacher (Middle School Emphasis)

2.Advice for First-Year Teachers (from Education World)

OCTOBER SKY - 1999 movie based on the memoir Rocket Boys by NASA scientist Homer H. Hickam Jr.  Unlike his classmates who saw achievement in sports (football) as the main ticket out of this small West Virginia mining town, 14-year-old Homer's inspiration came from the world of rocket science.  With some help from a science teacher, Homer and his group of "misfits" aspire to win the gold medal at the 1960 National Science Fair.  The movie raises interesting questions on the power of family and community to set and influence career agendas for young people.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  As a teacher, will you consciously or unconsciously support family and community expectations of career patterns for your students?  Will you ask your students to consider other alternatives?  What will it take to support them in making these decisions?

1.SpaceKids - Space Science for Kids (with a Teachers' Corner) Sponsored by NASA,

2.Hickam's Personal Website

3.PBS Resources for Science Teachers


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