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Teaching and Learning in Film

Although, this film is based on a true story, it is still a reflection of “Hollywood.” I am not sure to what extent the actual film is the true reality for the school, administration, students, etc. I am certain that Ron Clark was portrayed very closely to his self in real life.

This film represents the vision of a teacher as a co-creator of learning with students, as creative with lesson planning, as culturally relevant, as a
community builder, as a problem solver, and as being emotionally invested in student success. This portrayal of teaching is shown primarily through Ron Clark’s many approaches to teaching. Throughout this movie he does a large amount of problem solving and trial and error. He gives up once or twice throughout, but he continues to problem solve to figure out how he can really make his students succeed. He is determined to figure out how to get the students in his class to understand material, such as doing the “president’s rap.”

On the other hand, the film represents the school as a typical urban school with students tearing up paper, being unruly, talking while the teacher is talking, and administrators assuming students are low performing or special needs. The students in this movie are a mixture of African American, Latino, and Indian. It also showcases a principal who only cares about getting high test scores, and not really considering what students can really do. There is a scene where Ron Clark tells the principal that he thinks he isn’t setting the bar high enough. The entire film focuses on Ron’s ability to figure out how to teach the
students so they can pass the state exams. Ron was teaching for the test in relevant ways where students were able to also learn other lessons about
themselves and the world. He started one class by having a cake with several candles in it. He dims the lights, and tells encourage he student to “fly” and “jump” into trying something new with him as their teacher. He asks them to each light a candle which represents their trust for him as their teacher, and to learn more than they ever could imagine.

The general public may believe this is a typical portrayal of the “white teacher hero” who comes into the school, and saves the day similar to Freedom Writers. However, it is evident that Ron Clark, among other Caucasian teachers who are highly effective with students from diverse backgrounds has an understanding that all kids deserve the same opportunities to learn. Therefore, this portrayal is not of a “hero,” but rather of a journey into discovering the importance of building classroom community, and making work relevant to student s’ lives.


Start at 3:22-6:07, excuse the Spanish subtitles


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