Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dead Poet's Society

I watched the movie, "Dead Poet's Society" with my teacher friend who had never seen it before. That alone gave me fresh perspective but that, combined with summer and some distance from work-related situations, really helped me to internalize some of the most unique aspects of this particular film. If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend it (and this post will mean very little to you without some background in it).

1. There always needs to be a scapegoat.

The film is an amazingly poignant portrayal of peoples' penchant for avoiding personal responsibility. After Neal takes his own life it is only the students who have the presence of mind to look towards the pressures of his parents and the school administration as motivating factors. It is those two groups of people, however, who are so busy deflecting and denying that they are willing to target an innocent man and the students he inspired.

In my personal experience as a teacher almost forced out of her old school district due to the fear and close-mindedness of a group of "professionals" I can attest to the mentality fostered in schools to not only cover your own ass but to deflect so that any possible blame is directed as far away from you as possible. This is a cynical view, yes, but a learned one nonetheless.

2. People are not always rewarded for stepping outside of the box.

The teacher in Dead Poet's Society (portrayed by Robin Williams) is dynamic, engaging, and ultra creative with his teaching methods. He does everything that research says is "best practice" including removing the students from the classroom and providing real world experiences. In the end, none of that mattered. Instead of touting his ingenuity, he questioned the status quo and was thrown out because of it.

3. You can't reach everyone.

At the end of film several of the students from Mr. Keating's class stand on their desks in a show of solidarity for the teacher that inspired them. As the music plays and more students break free from the crowd I noticed (possibly for the first time) that probably half of the students remained quietly in their seats. I think that is perhaps the most realistic part of the movie right there. There will be students in our class who are reached immeasurably by our love and support. There will also be other students, students whose harsh exteriors we can't penetrate for one reason or another, students who are better suited to the teaching styles/personality of someone else. There is nothing wrong with that, but the movie definitely reinforces the truth: you can't reach them all.


  1. Great thoughts! I should really watch it again now that I have a few years of teaching under my belt!

    Love the new blog look, by the way! :)

  2. Thanks Sarah! It was an eye-opener for sure and the conversation afterward, priceless. I always appreciate your support!