I have a new item for my teacher wish list. I would like to have a full array of educational movie clichés including a montage maker, a nemesis, and a debilitating/potential fatal disease.
The most powerful of these tools is the matriculation montage maker. It is a basic concept really. Edit out all of the hard work, splice together a series of iconic images, and set the entire thing to Peter Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill.
CUT TO: Teacher and student struggling through a basic text together.
CUT TO: Student reading on his own.
CUT TO: Student leaving library with a ridiculously tall stack of books.
CUT TO: Student studying at desk PAN TO window with other kids playing outside.
CUT TO: Slamming book down on desk and pounding fist in frustration
CUT TO: Carnival, teacher winning a large stuffed bear for student
(Editor’s note: Accidentally activated the matrimony montage maker.)
CUT TO: Teacher underlining “MONTAGE” on the chalkboard.
CUT TO: Student collapsing on bed amongst a bevy of books. A look of satisfaction on his face.
CUT TO: Student waking up the morning of the test/graduation/spelling bee with montage induced migraine.
Of course the montage does not eliminate all of the student’s problems. Through the course of his studies the student may lack motivation. At this point the teacher may want consider finally succumbing to a pre-existing heart condition, contracting pneumonia, or risking near death and lawsuits by visiting the child at his home in a less than desirable neighborhood. It will be this act of bravery that finally convinces the student that the teacher cares. Honestly, nothing else works. Not mind numbing hours of repeating the same problems. Not overwhelming patience of the teacher when the student insists on giving up on himself. Not the perseverance despite lack of recognition. Not the long hours for low pay. None of these will work unless the teacher stares down death to teach the child.
None of this would carry the deep sense of satisfaction unless there is an authoritarian nemesis. This is particularly true for the ethnically diverse (read not white) students. If the students are white then they are most likely enrolled in an austere private boarding school. No matter where or who the students are the benefits of having an arch enemy who will pop at pivotal plot points and say, “Mr. Jones Bobby/Jamal/Alice/Esperanza just isn’t capable of doing this work,” is incalculable. After reaching the pinnacle of success the evil ogre of an administrator will appear to make accusations of cheating. At this time the teacher, or even better a deeply affected student, can deliver the theme with all of the eloquence that can be mustered by the screenwriter.
After the teacher has done all of this they can, “continue teaching at the same under funded school in which he had one year of success. With the profits the teacher made from selling his story, he was able to purchase much needed supplies, books, and tissue for the class.