While most of the films on the list are set in high schools or universities, the issues they address are relevant to teachers at all levels. Each movie has four or five questions. I anticipate that you would write equally for each movie, so don’t select a film because it has fewer questions than another one. Before you watch the movie, read through the questions carefully so you know what to look for. The questions do not ask you merely to recall details; they require critical thinking, creative and / or personal responses, and application to various aspects of education. Other titles will be added to the list as I am able to compile the viewing guides.

If you watch with another student, you may want to stop the film periodically and discuss a particular question or the movie in general.

The asterisk next to a movie title indicates obscene language, violence, and or other potentially offensive elements. Viewer discretion is advised.


1. Billy, a middle school boy, had to overcome interrelated cultural barriers to follow his dream. While your students’ dreams may be different, the obstacles may be the same. How might the following obstacles impact students in the grade level / subject area you intend to teach? How might you deal with them as a teacher, e.g. through the curriculum, teaching methods, interaction with students, etc.? Use specific references to the movie to support your ideas.

2. Michael knew he was gay and “came out” to Billy at a time when homosexuality was considered deviant behavior. Even today, gay bashing is common among both young and old people and homosexuals are discriminated against in many ways. If you intend to teach at the middle or high school level, how would you react to a student whom you suspect is gay and who is being mistreated by his or her peers? If you intend to teach at an elementary level, how would you react to a student who has two “mommies” or “daddies” and is being mistreated by his or her peers?

3. “Miss” was not a certified teacher as you intend to become, yet she demonstrated many of the qualities of an effective teacher. What are these qualities? Give specific examples from the movie.

4. What is the significance of the last scene (Billy as a man)? How can you relate this to your role as a teacher?


1. Why do you think the townspeople were so opposed to the Freedom School? Consider the perspectives of Sheriff Cole; Mike, the deputy sheriff and Barbara’s father; Mr. Posner; and a city councilman or councilwoman. Would their concerns be the same? Does anyone’s perspective change?
2. While it is not stated in the movie, what might be the mission of the Freedom School? Pretend you are asked to articulate the mission for a banner or poster that would hang in the main hall of the “school.” What would it say?
3. Billy Jack says, ‘Being an Indian is a way of life” and “Don’t expect a White man to understand.” Yet, most teachers of Indian students are White. Why do you think that is so? What would you need to know about Indian life to help you become an effective teacher at an Indian school?
4. Access the following URL and read the article from the Minneapolis Star newspaper. In what ways are this school and the Freedom School in the movie similar? In what ways are they different?


1. Each of the five students on detention experienced abusive or neglectful parents. Such abuse or neglect can occur at any age. Think about the students you intend to teach (elementary, middle school, high school) and the home circumstances of the five Breakfast Club members. How might you be able to help students in your class who suffer the same circumstances? For example, what specifically would you do if a “basket case” like Allison or a socially inept “brain” like Brian were in your class?

2. Mr. Vernon is the “bad guy” in this film. He is a villain to the five students and to the teaching profession. How does he demonstrate his villainy? What argument can you make in his defense?

3. Brian’s essay says “You [presumably teachers and administrators] see only what you want to see.” This implies stereotyping. What stereotypical characteristics do others “see” of the Princess, Athlete, Brain, Basket Case, and Criminal? How do the students’ lunches reflect those images?

4. Carl, the custodian, says he is the eyes and ears of Sherman High School and he gives some examples. What other examples might a custodian at your intended level of teaching (elementary, middle school, high school) give to further prove that point? Secretaries are also “eyes and ears” of a school. How so?

5. Claire predicts the five of them will all go back to their separate lives on Monday. The others say they won’t. What do you think will be the stronger force – peer pressure and group expectations or new-found friendships and greater self-awareness? Why?


1. Andrew Crocker-Harris has been given the nickname “Hitler of the lower fifth.” What does this title signify about his career as a teacher at a boys’ prep school in England?

2. Tom Gilbert, Andrew’s replacement at the school, has quite a different approach to education than Andrew. Compare the two men and their ideas of what students should learn. Give specific references to the film.

3. Edward Taplow gives Albert a copy of the Browning version of Agamemnon, a famous Greek tragedy. The story of Agamemnon has particular meaning for both Andrew and Edward. Research the story of Agamemnon and explain the meaning both Andrew and Edward derive from the play. Be specific.

4. Laura refers to her husband as a wimp and in some regards he is, though perhaps not in the way Laura is interpreting a wimp. How is Andrew a wimp and what did Laura say about Edward’s gift that further eroded Andrew’s self-esteem? However, Andrew is not a total wimp. How does he repudiate that perception?

5. At the end of the film, Andrew apologizes to the boys for not giving the students “what they had the right to demand from a teacher.” He says he has failed as a teacher. What lessons about teaching and teacher burnout can viewers learn from this movie?


1. Dr. Plecki invites several students to join the Academic Decathalon team at Steinmetz High School. Their biggest rival is Whitney Young High School whose team has won the state competition nine years in a row. One Steinmetz boy asks Dr. Plecki, “Why bother [organizing an AD team]?” Dr. Plecki replies, “Because no one thinks you can do it.” He adds, “I want you to know what it feels like to win.” How do these statements set the stage for the rest of the movie?

2. Dr. Plecki told the members of the team, “I need everything from you.” However, they weren’t able to give him “everything.” What was taking place in the students’ lives outside of school that encroached on the time they had to study for the competition? Think about the level of students you intend to teach. What “outside of school” activities might they be involved in that would encroach on the time they spend on school work? How will you accommodate those outside activities and still teach the content?

3. It seems that the Athletic Department has special privileges at Steinmetz High School. This is not uncommon at the high school (or even the middle school) level. Why do you think this is so? Is it understandable? Fair? How would you react to the unequal privileges if they were evident in a school in which you taught?

4. Dr. Plecki considered the cheating an act of civil disobedience. He said, “Sometimes you have to break the rules to challenge them. Things will change because of this.” What “rules” do you think he was challenging? How did things change for Dr. Plecki and the student cheaters because of the breach? How did things change at Steinmetz High School?

5. The postscript says that research indicates 80% of high school students admit to cheating. 50% said cheating is not wrong. Dr. Plecki’s mother, however, believes “Nothing you say can make it [cheating] right.” Can cheating be “right” or is it always wrong? Assume three students in the class you are teaching are caught cheating on an assignment you give. You confront them with the evidence but they deny cheating. What would you do?


1. James and the principal have different ideas about how to educate deaf students. Describe the differences, providing specific references to the movie. If a principal at the age / grade level you intend to teach had a similar attitude toward “special needs” students, how would you resolve the conflict?

2. One issue raised in this movie is the romantic relationship between co-workers or between teacher and student. Some schools frown upon such relationships; other schools look the other way, condone it, or prohibit it. What do you see as the sticky ethical considerations surrounding the issue of intra-school romances?

3. “Know thy students” is a key principle for ALL educators, for such knowledge impacts what and how one teaches. James learned critical information about Sara’s family background that helped him understand her. What information do you think teachers at your age / grade level or subject area need to know about the students to be more effective teachers?

4. The movie addresses the issue of the education of students with disabilities. What are your present concerns about teaching students with disabilities, whether they are physical, mental, or learning disabilities?

5. In a powerful scene, James finally understands why Sara refuses to speak and he backs off his insistence that she “speak to [me].” Think about your intended teaching situation. Give two examples of when it would be prudent for a teacher to “back off.”


1. Ken Carter returned to the high school he had attended to become the new coach for the boys’ basketball team. Many teachers do, or want to, teach in the elementary, middle, or high schools they attended as students. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of teaching in a school one attends as a student? Use examples from the movie to support your opinion.

2. Coach Carter expects students to call him “Sir” as a sign of respect. “You [the students] will have my respect until you lose it.” Is it better to establish trust this way or to expect students to “earn my respect?” Does one way make more sense for the age/grade level you intend to teach?

3. In what ways (at least 3) does Coach impress upon the players the need to put academics ahead of athletics? Give the details surrounding his actions. Do you think a “no-pass, no-play” policy is fair and warranted in high school athletics of whatever kind?

4. Richmond loses the championship game to St. Francis, but Coach says his players have won the “ever elusive victory/” What do you think he means? How is his point strengthened during the film’s epilogue?

5. An underlying theme of the film Coach Carter is the struggle of schools, teachers, and students to deal with various life circumstances that inhibit or, at best, make it difficult for students to succeed in school, e.g. one’s socioeconomic status? Discuss at least 3 of these life circumstances and how did they impact the persons involved.


1. In what ways was your high school different and similar to the one Louanne taught in?
2. What contexts of teaching did Louanne have to maneuver within, i.e. what, besides the students, did she
have to contend with? Be specific.
3. A student says to Louanne, “How the ---- are you going to save me from my life?” What cultural influences shaped the lives of the students in her class? Would knowledge of such cultural influences have prevented the fight between Emilio and Raul?
4. Her friend and colleague said, “Before you can teach them you have to get their attention.” Louanne used her background as a Marine. What would you do to get the attention of the students in your class if they were just as challenging as Louanne’s? What uncommon methods did Louanne use to teach her students? What uncommon methods are you prepared to use to teach your stuents?
5. Louanne “lost” two students – Emilio and Durrell. But another student said, “What about us? We’re still here.” Why is this an important quote from the movie? How far should a teacher go to “save” a student?


1. Welstone is built on traditions, some of which help create a positive learning environment, others that don’t. What are the traditions at Welstone that benefit the students and the operation of the school? What are the traditions that hinder the students or the operation of the school?
2. It is a teacher’s job to assess his students for what they are today as well as for what they could be tomorrow. How did Mr. Keating fulfill this responsibility?
3. John Keating uses many unorthodox methods to teach his students and students responded to his teaching style. What were some of his methods for teaching poetry? While you may not become a John Keating, what unorthodox methods can you see yourself using when you become a teacher? Think about the level of your students and the subjects you intend to teach.
4. “Carpe diem,’ the theme of Keating’s teaching, brings his students into conflict with their parents. It also illustrates the conflict between parent and teacher that often occurs. You will need to develop a philosophy for interacting with parents such as Mr. Perry. What would be five guidelines you would establish for your interaction with parents when you are a teacher? Explain the importance of each guideline.


1. When Devin arrives at the Atlanta A&T campus, he finds that life for the band is like life in military boot camp. In what ways are they similar? Who are the comparable “key players”? How does Shawn Taylor, the “drill sergeant” at A&T, help Devin get over his attitude of superiority?

2. There is a philosophical conflict between the band director and the president of Atlanta A&T. What is each man’s perspective? How do their perspectives impact the marching band?

3. The band director. Dr. Lee, tells Devin, “You must learn to follow before you can lead.” How does Devin transition from a follower to a leader? How might this principle apply to teachers as well as students? Respond to this in relation to the grade or subject area you intend to teach.

4. Devin is a true musical prodigy, but he lacks the “basics.” What are the basics for him? What did he have to do to learn those basics?? Think about the developmental levels of students and the subject(s) you eventually will teach. What are the basics that your students must have achieved in order to be successful in your class? How will you help the students to learn them?

5. Dr. Lee teaches the members of the marching band the concept of “One band, one sound,” in other words, the need for cooperation among each musician. Apply the same concept to your teaching. What types of cooperation will be desirable for you to foster in your students? Why?


1. Rita finds herself caught between two worlds – the one she lives in and knows and the one she aspires to and is working toward. She refers to the situation as being “half-cast.” How is this conflict evident in the film? How do the players, especially Rita and Denny, respond to the conflict?
2. Rita’s mother says, “There must be betters songs to sing than this.” What do you think she means? How could you use that same saying with regard to students in the subject area / grade level you intend to teach? What does it say about multicultural education?
3. How does the relationship between Dr. Bryant and Rita evolve throughout the movie? Is it a healthy evolution? An inevitable one? What does it suggest to you about establishing relationships with students you intend to teach?
4. Dr. Bryant ended up a drunk with a vague future. Yet he taught Rita many important lessons as her teacher and mentor. What were those lessons? What did Rita teach him in return?
5. Dr. Bryant is an example of teacher burnout. Rita is an example of the Pygmalion Effect. How do Dr. Bryant and Rita exemplify these two identities?


1. Students learn through their teachers, with their teachers, and sometimes in spite of their teachers. This film
portrays teachers in a stereotypical negative way. What is the perception of teachers in the movie? How would you, as a teacher, create a more positive image of teachers? What lessons did Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron learn outside of the classroom on their day off?
2. Ferris Bueller is a gifted student. What are the indications of his giftedness? Do you think he is advancing or squandering his talents? How else might Ferris channel his giftedness in the school setting? How would you address his giftedness if he were a student in your class?
3. Bueller’s parents are portrayed as gullible and concerned. Though we don’t see Cameron’s parents, we learn from Cameron that his father is hostile and egocentric. Knowing what you do about both boys, how would you, as a teacher, work with both sets of parents to ensure the success of each boy in your class? Consider the parents’ perspective of the school, the personnel, and their child as you respond to this question. What would be five guidelines you would establish for your interaction with parents when you are a teacher? Explain the importance of each guideline.
4. Ferris’s sister Jean is frustrated and bitter when she sees Ferris getting away with the head games that he plays, and she wants to get even with him. However, at the end, she joins forces with him against the Dean of Students, who also has been a victim of Ferris’s head games. Why do you think she changed her mind? As a teacher in a classroom at the level in which you intend to teach, how can you use this phenomenon of joining with your individual enemy to fight a common enemy as a teacher to improve student learning or the classroom climate?


1. For a long time, Jamal keeps his intelligence and his writing talent a secret – from his friends, his teachers, and his family. How does he keep the secret? Why would he think it’s necessary to do so? Similarly, Forrester doesn’t want people to know his identity and he swears Jamal to secrecy. Why do you think Forrester wants to remain in the shadows?
2. There are several instances throughout the movie that illustrate racial stereotyping and / or discrimination. Some are overt, others are more subtle. Describe at least three instances of stereotyping and discrimination FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE DISCRIMINATOR, e.g. the young man with the BMW.
3. Jamal is caught between two worlds – the world he came from and the world of what he could become. How does Jamal deal with this conflict? Are there winners and losers? What do you foresee in Jamal’s future? What indications from the movie support this prediction?
4. Forrester tells Jamal that “bitterly disappointed teachers can be either very effective or very dangerous.” How might this apply to Forrester and Professor Crawford? Consider each man’s background, personality, teaching style, etc.
5. “Know thy student” is a teacher’s prime caveat. Jamal and Forrester teach and learn from each other. What does each learn ABOUT the other that enhances the teaching / learning process? What lessons did each one learn FROM the other?


1. In the beginning of the movie, Mr. Barrie’s play is disappointing to the audience. They blame the playwright for the poor performance. How does he respond to the criticism? In much the same way, teachers are blamed for the poor performance of their students. Who might be in the teacher’s “audience?” What might be their complaints? How would you respond to those complaints?

2. In the park, Peter tries unsuccessfully to get the kite to fly. When Jack and Michael tease him, Mr. Barrie says, “It’s not going to work in no one believes in him.” Why is this an important quote from the movie? How can it be applied to students at the level you intend to teach?

3. Mr. Barrie and Mrs. Davis’s mother stand in stark contrast to one another throughout most of the movie. In what ways are they different? What kind of a teacher would she be if she taught at the level you intend to teach? How does it contrast to the kind of teacher he would be?

4. Sometimes teachers’ private lives are open to public scrutiny; career opportunities may be offered or withheld by the educational power brokers. Mr. Barrie exposed himself to much criticism. What was the criticism and was it fair? How far should a teacher go in being “a real person” to his or her students or in protecting his or her personal privacy?

5. The genteel, middle-aged audience at the performance of Peter Pan learned a great lesson from the 25 orphans for whom the seats had been saved. What was the lesson? How might you apply this lesson to your teaching and your interaction with parents, colleagues, and community members who are involved in the education of young people?


1. The west Texas town that is the setting of this movie is not unlike other small towns that revere their high school football teams. Is such reverence healthy for the townspeople and the players? Think about the coach's statement to Mike, "There's not much difference between winning and losing except how the outside world treats you."

2, Parents generally want what is best for their children, but parents and guardians (e.g. Miles's uncle) in this movie make questionable judgments regarding their sons/nephew. What were these errors in judgment made by Miles's uncle and other parents? What impact did they have on the boys? If the parents had sought your advice, as the boy's teacher, what advice would you offer? Consider the parent's / guardian's perspective

3. The movie ilustrates bias on the part of officials, the win-at-all-cost attitude of the Dallas Carter coach, the intimidation of the "bigger and better" Dallas Carter team towards the underdog Permian team, and overall unsportsmanlike behavior. How would you combat similar behavior in students (players) and administrators (officials) at the grade level in which you intend to teach?

4. When Miles leaves the lockerroom with his things, he cries and tells his uncle, "I can't do nothing but play football." As one of Miles's teachers, how would you respond to this statement in a one-on-one conference with Miles. Use everything you know about the boy from the movie to inform your counsel.

5. Coaches face a "win or get fired" syndrome. Do you think that this is fair? Similarly, teachers are held accountable for their students' learning. That is, they face sanctions if their students don't learn, as demonstrated by the students' performance on standardized tests. Do you think this is fair?


1. Mr. Chip’s Brookfield is a very hierarchical and authoritarian place with established rules, punishments, and rituals. How are discipline and authority maintained at Brookfield, either officially, through the teachers and headmaster, or unofficially among the students? Which scenes show this?

2. This film is based on real English public schools which have been enormously influential in England for hundreds of years. (“Public” schools in England are the same as private schools in the US. Some critics of the English public school system say it promotes elitism in education. Proponents of the system say it develops leaders. How does the film provide evidence to support both viewpoints?

3. Why is Herr Staefel pressured to resign? Do you agree with Headmaster Ralston when he says that, especially in times of war, a school must “foster patriotism”? Do you believe something like this could, or should, happen today (e.g. with the War on Terrorism raging)?

4. Though your own high school and Brookfield are removed from each other by at least a century and a continent, they are probably alike in many ways? To what extent do you think ALL schools are alike, whether Chips’s Brookfield, Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, or your own? Use specific references to Brookfield and your own high school


1. One theme of this movie is the nature of gifted students and the challenges they pose to themselves, their teachers, and their acquaintances. With Will as your example, how would you define giftedness? How does Will substantiate your definition? How does Will explain his giftedness to Skyla?
2. Will plays a game of intellectual one-upsmanship with several characters in the film. Describe the game and its outcome in the following scenes:

a. Will vs. the snobbish Harvard student in the bar
b. Will vs. first counselor (gray-haired gentleman)
c. Will vs. hypnotist
d. Will vs. Sean during their first meeting
e. Will vs. interviewer for the job with the government

3. Another theme is the influence of one's environment on his or her opportunities in life. Will and his friends grew up in South Boston. What image do you get of this environment from the movie? How does the effect of this environment act as a self-fulfilling prophecy? Think about Chuck's view of his own future and his hope for Will's future?

4. People who care can "save" a student. How did Sean and Professor Lambaugh both have Will's best interest at heart? What can you do as a teacher to rescue a student, gifted or otherwise, from "falling through the cracks"?


1. Describe the town’s relationship with basketball. Was it a healthy realtionship? Why or why not?

2. In a scene at the Indiana State Championships, Coach Dale has the players measure the foul line distance and basket height. He wants them to understand that though the environment has changed, the basics of winning stay the same. How could this also apply to teaching your subject or grade level? Be specific.

3. Earlier in his career, Norman Dale lost his college-coaching job by striking a student. How has he learned to deal with his impulsive behaviors? What career-ending actions must teachers avoid in today’s litigious society?

4. Norman Dale taught the fundamentals of basketball, e.g. physical conditioning, passing, shooting, moving with the ball, etc. While not popular with the players, his fundamentals brought success. How could Coach Dale have used his “teaching” skills to teach your subject area to middle or high school students or teach your elementary grade level students? What, besides content knowledge, could Coach Dale have taught your students?

5. Think about the characters in this film. One of them could be considered a male role model. It’s not the coach, although the coach has learned lessons from life and has become a nurturing, caring individual. Who might the role model be? Why do you think so?


1. While not a five-star movie, Kindergarten Cop does illustrate several issues of importance to educators, particularly, though not exclusively, those at the elementary level. One issue is that of students’ physical and emotional safety in school. List at least three events / examples from the movie that illustrate the safety issue.

2. The students witnessed acts of violence in school. This would traumatize most students; however, the movie does not address this issue. What types of “trauma treatment” do you think would be appropriate for the five-year old students in Mr. Kimball’s class?

3. A third issue is the romantic relations between teachers at the same school. In your opinion, are such relationships advisable or inadvisable? In what ways does the grade / age level you intend to teach impact your opinion?

4,. Kindergarten kids tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves.” In what ways does the movie illustrate this characteristic of kindergarten students? What other characteristics, perhaps stereotypical, do you see in Mr. Kimball’s class?

5. Mr. Kimball is not a certified early childhood teacher, yet he exhibits several characteristics of a successful teacher of young children. What are some of these characteristics? Give specific references to the movie to prove your point.


1. The prelude shows you Eastside High School when Joe Clark was a teacher. The beginning of the movie itself shows Eastside High School 20 years later. How had things changed in the 20 years? How had things remained the same? How can you anticipate the kind of principal Joe Clark would become by knowing the
kind of teacher he was?

2. Joe Clark establishes his authority right away and maintains his authority throughout the movie. How does he do this? How does his style of leadership get him into trouble?

3. Joe Clark has many of the characteristics of Martin Luther King Jr. In what ways are these two men similar? How does Joe associate the problems at Eastside to the problems faced by African American students in general? Do you think he is legitimate in his perceptions?

4. This movie illustrates the politics of education. In what ways was Joe Clark a player in the game of educational politics? Why did the students fight to keep him when the school board was being encouraged to dismiss him?

5. Why are the lyrics of the theme song so appropriate to the movie? Use specific lines from the song to support your response.


1. Dede and Jane both give Fred things the other one can’t. What do they give him? How does he respond to their “gifts”? Be specific and refer to selected scenes from the movie.

2. Through her association with Fred and Dede, Jane makes some subtle personal changes. How does she change and how do Dede and Fred act as catalysts for those changes?

3. At the end of the movie, Fred quotes a saying he read in a fortune cookie: “Only when all those around you are different will you truly belong.” How do you interpret this quote? Why might this quote be meaningful to Fred? How might it be meaningful to teachers?

4. Not all gifted students have the benefit (?) of attending a Grierson Institute. Most teachers who teach gifted and talented students do so in regular school settings. What kinds of things can these teachers do to provide for the needs of their gifted students?

5. Jodie Foster was a gifted student when she was in K-12 schools. She said in an interview that directing this film was the most important challenge of her professional career. What message might she be trying to send to educators, parents, citizenry, etc. regarding gifted children?


1. In any middle school or high school, the cafeteria is a microcosm of the social structure of the student body. How do you see this microcosm in the movie? There are also individual stereotypes portrayed in the movie, e.g. the dumb blonde. Describe at least five stereotypical characters or groups. What role do they play in the movie?

2. Regina is the mover and shaker at the high school. She knows all the rules girls play by as they establish and maintain their social status. What are some of the rules? A quote from the movie says, “In the girl world, all the fighting has to be sneaky.” How is this evident in this film? How did her sneakiness backfire on Cady?

3. How did Cady slowly go from being anti-plastic to plastic herself? Chronicle the transition with specific references to the film.

4. Regina’s mother exemplifies plasticity herself, even as she promotes Regina’s queen bee status. In what ways is Regina a mirror image of her mother? What questions would you want to ask or what advice would you want to give her mother?

5. MEAN GIRLS has a Hollywood ending, that is, the main character ends up a “good” person, gets the boy, and wins respect and admiration of others in the school. Is that a realistic ending? What does the last scene seem to indicate about social climbing among adolescent girls?


1. The administration and students at Wellesley College consider Kathryn Watson “subversive” in her role as an instructor. Why did each group believe this? How did the president try to mold Kathryn into a “proper” Wellesley faculty member?

2. Bill and Kathryn have different relationships with their students. Describe the differences. How will you establish and maintain a healthy relationship with your students? Does the students’ age / grade level affect the student-teacher relationship?

3. Betty and her mother illustrate the image of women in the 1950s. How would that image contrast with the image of women in 2004? How does the difference in image affect the educational achievement of Betty’s mother, Betty, and a female student in 2004?

4. Kathryn wanted to teach at Wellesley because she wanted to “make a difference.” She did make a difference in the lives of her students but she had to deal with issues of personal ethics to make a difference within herself. What were some of the issues and how did she address them? Would you have made the same decisions?


1. Throughout the movie, the Hollands struggle with financial problems. While they do not live in poverty, they must make several “dream adjustments” to survive. There will always be a more economically profitable career than education. Learning to live within a teacher’s income is difficult unless you believe in the “total package of rewards” of teaching. What are the non-financial benefits of teaching that prompted you to pursue education as a career?

2. Early in the movie Mr. Holland tells Bill Meister that he is going to spend his free time composing. Bill just laughs. What does Bill know that Holland doesn’t? How does Holland learn this lesson on his own?

3. Many new teachers struggle to establish healthy relationships with their students. These relationships will vary depending on the age level of the students. Glenn Holland allows his teaching relationship with Rowena to go beyond acceptable limits. How did that happen? What would constitute a healthy relationship between teacher and students at your grade / age level of teaching?

4. Mr. Holland started teaching in the early 1960s and was laid off in the early 1990s. During the 30 years he taught school, the United States went through many changes, some of which are portrayed in film clips interspersed throughout the film. What are some of these events and how did they alter the fabric of American society? Did they affect Mr. Holland?

5. How did Glenn Holland and his wife react differently to their son’s deafness? What implications does this have for a teacher who has handicapped students mixed in with regular students?


1. “Browbeating,” “prodding,” “authoritarian,” “tough-love,” “drill sergeant” and “harsh” are all words that could describe Roberta’s teaching style. With descriptors such as these, why do the children love and respect her? How did parents and colleagues respond to her teaching style?

2. Roberta Guaspari undergoes a transformation in both her personal and professional lives. Describe these transformations. What were the catalysts for the transformations? Do you foresee yourself someday advancing beyond the classroom into another area of education or into a second career?

3. Roberta says, “Anyone can learn to play the violin.” Can anyone learn the subject(s) you intend to teach? What prerequisite knowledge or skills would help your students achieve in your class?

4. Usually parents of elementary children are involved in their children’s education. However, parents in the East Harlem community could be of little help to their children in Roberta’s classes. It’s not like they could assist with “homework.” In what ways were they able to help their kids? What areas that you intend to teach might be beyond parents? How might you enlist their assistance anyhow?

5. This movie deals with “arts education” in schools (e.g. art, music, drama). Typically, the arts programs are the first to be eliminated when schools face budget shortfalls. What are your views regarding the importance of arts education? Should they be of equal importance, less importance, or greater importance than academics? What arts program were you involved in during your K-12 educational career? How did you benefit from such a program?


1. The systems of financing and governing of schools in the United States are fraught with controversy and inequity. How did educational finance and governance shape the lives of the students in Coalwood, WV?

2. Because of his family situation, Homer had to drop out of school. How did that action affect him, his parents, and Miss Riley? For what other reasons do students drop out of school? How can teachers help reduce or prevent dropouts?

3. The Science Fair was the vehicle for Miss Riley to challenge Homer intellectually. What type of non-academic, extracurricular activities existed in your high school that could promote academic excellence? What extracurricular activities might you sponsor and support when you become a teacher?

4. Miss Riley, an ordinary teacher, inspired her students to work beyond the requirements of the classroom. How was she able to do this? Give several examples.

5. At the beginning of the film, Homer and his friends were considered geeks and nerds. Why did others perceive them this way? How and why did their image change? Is this an example of Hollywood’s penchant for “happy endings” or realistic characterization?


1. Professor Kingsfield uses the Socratic method of teaching to develop students’ ability to think critically. Research and describe the method and give a specific example of how the Professor utilizes it in class. Why is the Socratic method of teaching / learning the death knell for Kevin?

2. When Hart is at Susan’s residence, he describes three kinds of Harvard students and indicates he is an example of the third type. What are the three types of students Hart describes? Which one are you and why do you see yourself as that type of student?

3. As the boys in the study group prepare for the practice exam, things begin to fall apart with the group. It eventually goes from six members to three and finally to just two, Hart and Ford. What are the dynamics of the group and the “hang-ups” of the various members that cause the study group to disintegrate?

4. When students arrive to take the final exam in Kingsfield’s Contract Law class, there are far fewer students in class than at the beginning of the semester. Why do you believe so many students dropped out of the class? There are certainly many reasons for you to investigate. Why was Hart able to succeed in the class? Did the professor play a role in Hart’s successful passing of the class?

5. The movie is titled The Paper Chase, yet nowhere in the movie is a character literally chasing paper. What do think is the significance of the title? The movie was made in the 1970’s, yet Harvard has not changed much in the past two decades. What is your impression of Harvard University after watching this film?


1. While the movie Patch Adams is about a doctor in a hospital setting, the analogy to teachers in schools is quite strong. Develop this analogy by addressing the following comparisons. Use specific references to the film and to yourself and be sure to present both sides of the comparison.

    1. Patch’s philosophy of medicine and your current philosophy of education
    2. Patch’s incentive to become a doctor and your incentive to become a teacher
    3. Patch’s relationship with his constituents (patients, parents, community members, colleagues) and the relationship you, as an educator, hope to achieve with the same constituents (patients = students).
    4. Patch’s methods of healing and the methods you envision yourself using as a teacher
    5. Patch’s personal characteristics that make him an excellent doctor and the personal characteristics that will make you an excellent teacher


1. This movie addresses many social issues that have great impact on the education of children. For each of the following social issues, describe its effect on Trevor as a young boy and as a student. Some may also impact Eugene as a teacher and Arlene as a mother. How would you address these issues in your class if you knew students were victims of these circumstances?

a. Domestic violence
b. Alcoholism
c. Homelessness
d. Bullying

2. Another issue of importance in this movie is the relationship a teacher has with his or her students and with the students’ parents. Some may argue that Eugene and Arlene’s relationship crosses the boundaries of professional behavior and it could have serious repercussions for Trevor. Do you agree or disagree? Be specific.

3. Paying It Forward is a chain reaction that grows exponentially. The first link in the chain doesn’t know about the other links. Give two examples from the movie to indicate this chain. How might Trevor’s death become the first link of a new chain of Pay It Forward?

4. Access the Pay It Forward Foundation at the following website: payitforwardfoundation.org Travel around the website using the many links provided. Read about some of the PIF projects that have been undertaken by schools and communities. Think of a PIF project you might create for a class you’d teach at your grade level and/or in your subject area. Describe the project, including the purpose, resources needed, participants, activities, etc.


1. Choose one of the main characters in the movie: Kyle (leader, popular, intelligent), Matty (Kyle’s best friend, not an outstanding student), Ana (pretty, second smartest student in school), Roy (Asian American, technology whiz), Francesca (rich, non-conformist), or Desmond (African American, basketball star). Put yourself into that character; literally become that person as you watch the film. Keep a daily journal that a) exemplifies the stereotype you portray, b) explains why you participated in the heist, c) describes your first impression of each of the other members of the group and the change in your relationship with at least one other person in the group, and d) explains the reason you did not use the answers to take the test. WRITE IN THE FIRST PERSON (I) POINT OF VIEW.

2. This movie deals with the issue of high stakes testing. In one scene, Kyle’s mother, a teacher, prepares a lesson to teach her first grade students how to bubble in answers on a standardized test answer sheet. This indicates that testing begins early in one’s educational career. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using tests to make decisions regarding a student’s current or future educational path? Address this question from the perspective of a teacher at the grade level you intend to teach.

3. This story has a Hollywood ending – everyone does the “right thing.” Based on your experiences in high school, is this a realistic ending? Why or why not?


1. A teacher's relationship with the principal can be critical to the teacher's enjoyment of and success with the job. Describe the relationship between the Coach and Principal Daniels.

2. Twice Johnny and his friends played tricks on Radio; each time the prank backfired on them. What were the tricks and how did the boys pay for their prank? Use specific references to the film.

3. Coach Jones was a friend, a mentor, and a teacher to Radio. But he says to the townspeople, "Radio's been teaching us." What did Coach teach Radio? What did Radio teach Coach Jones and the team? There should be more than one response to each of these questions.

4. It seems that in every teacher movie that involves sports, the coach has to face the "barbershop," that is, a group of people who question, disapprove, and belittle what the coach does with the team. Teachers face their own barbershops. Who do you expect to comprise the barbershop when you are a teacher? What "advice" will they give you? How will you react to them?

5. Traditions are important in schools. They help define a school's culture and climate. Some traditions are positive, others are negative. Radio became a tradition at the high school and remained so for fifty years. Thus, this movie might be used as a testimonial to the practice of inclusion. How? In what ways might it also be used as an argument against inclusion?


1. Coach Boone and Coach Yoast have very different coaching styles just as academic teachers, including you, might have different teaching styles. Describe a classroom teacher that is cut from the same mold as Coach Boone and another teacher cut from the same mold as Coach Yoast. Give characteristics of both coach and teacher to illustrate the similarities yet be sure to put each in the proper context. Be specific.

2. At Gettysburg, Coach Boone tells the players, “If we don’t come together right now on this battlefield, we too will be destroyed. I don’t care if you like each other but you will respect each other. And maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.” How does this quote foreshadow the rest of the film? What can you do in your academic classroom to foster cooperation among students with differing backgrounds, interests, needs, etc.?

3. The principal tells Coach Boone that he’ll lose his job if he loses a game. This illustrates the pressure put on coaches, especially coaches of high profile sports such as high school football and basketball. What kind of pressure do you anticipate at the level and/or in the subject area you intend to teach? From whom? How will you deal with the pressure?

4. Racism and bigotry are evident throughout the film: a) at school, b) on the playing field and in the locker room, c) in homes, and d) in the community. Give 2 SPECIFIC examples of racism in each the above four contexts. How are the racial incidents addressed? By whom? How are they resolved?


1. Ruby was able to get through the ordeal of attending the all-White school because she had several resources and support systems that she could rely on. For example, she had a stable and loving home. While the students you teach may not face such difficult circumstances, they will have to cope with other situations, perhaps equally troubling. What kinds of “baggage” do you think students at the level you intend to teach will bring to your class? How might you help relieve them of or help them cope with the baggage as Ms. Henry did for Ruby?

2. Miss Woodmere is an example of an unprofessional, unethical administrator who listens to and reacts to society’s voice rather than her own conscience. Explain this observation. How might you struggle between what society wants from educators in the 21 st century and what you are willing/capable of giving?

3. The following dialogue between Bob Cole and Mr. Bridges illustrates the concept of white privilege. Investigate this concept until you feel you have some understanding of it and then explain how the quote illustrates white privilege.

Cole: “Before I met Ruby I never thought about segregation.”

Bridges: “You didn’t have to.”

4. The movie Ruby Bridges also illustrates the politics of education, from the state house to the community to the classroom. Explain how politics was infused throughout Ruby’s education.

5. The movie is the biography of a little girl that ultimately changed the face of education in the latter half of the 20 th century. In what ways does the movie illustrate the theme of social justice? Give references to the movie? How will you promote social justice in your classroom?


1. Rudy had to overcome many obstacles to realize his dream of attending Notre Dame University. Describe at least four obstacles and how Rudy overcame them. How might you relate his struggles to students in K-12 schools that may be in your class(es) someday?

2. Rudy and D-Bob serve as models of cooperative learning as they help each other meet their individual goals. Based on their example, what do you think would be features of cooperative learning? Was each successful in meeting his goals?

3. Rudy displays many of the “dispositions” that make for an effective football player. They are the same dispositions that make for an effective teacher and are part of Marietta College’s list of outcomes. What are those dispositions? How did Rudy display them at Notre Dame? How would a teacher at the grade level or in the subject area you intend to teach display the same dispositions?

4. Access the poem “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes on the Internet. How does this poem resonate with the theme of the movie Rudy.

5. Do you believe a teacher should award a separate grade for effort as well as a grade for academic success? Why or why not?


1. This movie exploits stereotypes of administrators, especially principals. What is the image of principals perpetuated by in School of Rock? While she may be stereotypically portrayed, she does demonstrate both strengths and weaknesses as an administrator. What are these strengths and weaknesses? Give specific references to the movie.

2. The movie also exploits stereotypes of students. Those who become part of Dewey’s band all represent different types of students in middle schools. Describe how at least four of the band members illustrate student stereotypes. Give specific references to the movie to support your assertions.

3. Dewey models some of the principles of constructivist teaching / learning, differentiation of instruction, and problem-based learning. Look up these terms in the Lexicon of Education (on the website) and give several examples from the movie to show how Dewey exemplifies these approaches. While there may be overlapping of evidence, try to use different examples to illustrate each principle.

4. Dewey is honest with students. For example, he tells them about having a hangover. How much about one’s life should a teacher share with his or her students? Does the age / grade level of the students make a difference in the type and amount of information a teacher shares?

5. Though we never see him in a classroom situation, we know Ned has a good reputation as a substitute teacher. Using him as a template, what are the characteristics of a good substitute teacher? Think of a real teacher at the level and in the subject you intend to teach. How do you think Ned would conduct a lesson left by that regular teacher or manage students in the teacher’s class?


1. The film takes place during the 1950’s at St. Mathews Academy, a boys’ preparatory school. What image do you have of prep schools? Consider such features as the academic, social, and interpersonal behaviors of the boys and the teachers.

2. The headmaster knows David is Jewish. He finds David in the Chapel at the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashannah. He says to David, “Was it worth breaking a tradition just to win a football game?” David replies, “Your tradition or mine?” How does this quote illustrate the conflict each man faces regarding “tradition”?

3. After Mac is humiliated by the French teacher, Dillon tells David about the “keys to the kingdom.” What is the “kingdom”? What are the keys Dillon mentions? What other keys do you think would / could give you access to the “kingdom”?

4. A professor realizes someone has cheated on the final exam but he doesn’t know who. He will fail the entire class if the cheater is not revealed. How would you deal with the following cheating scenarios, assuming a student is guilty of the cheating?

    1. a student uses a crib sheet (like Dillon)
    2. a student plagiarizes another student’s work
    3. a student gives answers to an assignment to another student

5. Religious prejudice and discrimination are themes of the movie School Ties. In what different ways are prejudice and discrimination shown in the movie? How will you deal with issues of discrimination in your classroom?


1. Jake and Ted illustrate many differences between male students at the high school level. In what ways are they different? What scenes in the movie show these differences? At the end of the movie they are friends. Is this a realistic turn of events?

2. Sam and Carolyn also illustrate differences between female students at the high school level. In what ways are they different? What scenes in the movie show these differences?

3. The party at Jake’s house gets out of control. The teens drink alcohol, engage in sex, and trash the house, but no one seems concerned about any consequences. If this is typical behavior for high school students, perhaps there is a need for education about the perils of substance abuse or unsafe sex. What are your thoughts about programs such as sex education and character education? Should they be a part of a secondary school curriculum? Should they be initiated earlier than high school?

4. This movie has a Hollywood ending – Good boy gets good girl (or vice versa). Based on your experiences in high school, is this a realistic ending?


1. The movie portrays Jaime Escalante as a successful, highly paid technologist who switches to teaching without formal, in-depth training. What makes him succeed despite this lack of training? What problems result because of the lack of education courses?

2. The ‘lone wolf” concept makes a good movie, but it can destroy a school. If the only reason to be in school was math (or science or art or any subject), why have all the other subjects and extracurricular activities? Was Jaime Escalante justified in putting so much pressure on his students? What would happen if everyone set the same demands on students’ time and efforts?

3. Jaime Escalante is often rude, crude, and abusive to his students. Some of his comments and terms he uses to describe his students were out of line; some would be considered sexual harassment. Give at least six examples of these offensive terms and comments.

4. On the other hand, how was it obvious that Jaime cared for his students? What is your reaction to his teaching style? Do you think it would work for you? Why or why not?

5. One element of the Conceptual Framework for the Education Department at Marietta College is to “Become Change Agents.” Review the explanation of this component in your Education Handbook. In what ways did Jaime Escalante demonstrate this concept? Be specific. Could he serve as a role model for any other element of the Conceptual Framework?


1. The film is located in an inner city school in Dade County (Miami) Florida. THE SUBSTITUTE is more an action film that a teacher film and spends little time addressing issues of schools and teaching. It also presents stereotypes of inner city schools. What are the images of inner city schools presented in the film? Be specific. Do you believe they are accurate?

2. The substitute, Mr. Smith, uses his own knowledge, background, and experiences to relate to the students. In what ways does he do so? What are the results? How much of one's self can a teacher share with students without blurring the line between teacher and something else, perhaps friend or comrade?

3. While discussing gangs, Mr. Smith tells the students, "I'd like to see all of you survive." In their present circumstances, what are the chances that the students, both male and female, will "survive"? Define survival. What obstacles to survival lie in their paths? How will they overcome the obstacles? Etc.

4. Daryl, the Black teacher, accuses the substitute of racism when Mr. Smith contends that the principal is involved in the drug ring. Daryl says it's a white man's attempt to undermine a black man who is running for political office. While that accusation proves unfounded, other instances of racism are evident in the movie. Explain a few of these instances.

5. Mr. Smith, the substitute, seems superhuman, certainly not what one envisions as a substitute teacher. Think back to your high school days and the subs you had. What was it like to be a sub at your school? If you don't find a teaching position right away, will you be a substitute? Why or why not?


1. Characters in the film confront different legal issues: a former student’s lawsuit against the school, Alex’s ill-advised counseling of a student, unannounced locker searches, etc. A student is suing Kennedy High School because he was allowed to graduate without being able to read. This issue of retention versus social promotion is a current hot topic in education. So, what should a teacher do when faced with students who are failing the course, despite the teacher’s efforts to teach them? Do you agree with current policy that requires a student to pass a proficiency test in order to graduate from high school?

2. Many times a teacher is faced with parents, like Eddie Palickien’s parents, who believe it is the school’s job to raise their children for them. Sometimes a teacher is the only means by which a child can learn perseverance, courage, thinking skills, appropriate behavior, and social conventions. How can a teacher teach these things as well as content?

3. Bob Rosenberg must continue teaching a student who physically assaulted him (bit his hand). What alternative disciplinary action would you have meted out to the student? Why would that action be more effective?

4. Part of becoming a teacher is interacting with other teachers and school personnel, and the teachers’ lounge is an important place to try out various modes of interaction. How does the teachers’ lounge at JFK reflect the school’s culture and climate? What could make the teachers’ lounge a more positive place to be?


1. Monty and his roommates understand the influence and power of a student’s thesis advisor. That person has the power to determine a student’s success or failure at Harvard. When Monty summarizes his thesis and the thrust of his research, Professor Buchanan seems impressed. Listen carefully to Monty’s summary and, in your own words, indicate what his thesis is all about. How does the professor respond to Monty’s thesis? What does Simon say about Monty’s thesis?

2. Simon says to Monty, “When you looked at me you didn’t see a man.” What did Monty see? What did the professor see when he first encountered Simon? How can this blindness also happen between teachers and students?

3. Simon illustrates in many ways the “culture of poverty.” For example, when Monty takes Simon to the welfare office, Simon doesn’t cooperate. How would you describe this culture? In what other ways does Simon “live” the culture? How might knowing about the culture of poverty make one a better teacher? Be specific.

4. Simon sends another homeless person to deliver the rest of Monty’s thesis. Monty reads what he had written and scratches it all out. He begins a new thesis, perhaps one that is more authentic. Write an abstract of what you suppose might be the new thesis. How can you use this experience to enable students in your class to become better writers?

5. Professor Buchanan tells Monty he will not graduate from Harvard “with honors” because his thesis was turned in late. Simon tells Monty he will “graduate life with honors.” What is the distinction in each man’s concept of honor? In this day of standardization in almost all aspects of education, how can teachers help students develop both types of honor?