Teachers have always been a very important part of our lives. While some imparted knowledge to us with their toughness, some had a friendlier approach. Some teachers became friends, others not really so. We’ve had the kind of teachers who’ve given us life lessons and went beyond the curriculum, to those who stuck to what was required for us to learn from the blackboard. There have been many teachers in our lives but the voices of a few of them stay in the lessons that we’ve learned and the decisions that we make. And, we may not find a lot of ways to say thank you, but I’m sure we can at least find reflections of our favourite teachers in these amazing films that honour their profession and them.
Ishan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) was an 8-year-old who saw the world through a different lens. Like most people who don’t understand what having dyslexia is like, his parents thought that he was lazy, his teachers thought he was ‘dumb’ and Ishan suffered in an environment which didn’t know how to accommodate him. When everything seemed to fall apart in his life, his art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) noticed the issues he faced while learning and created an innovative way to teach him. Not only did he help him in academics, he went out of his way to explain what dyslexia is to Ishan’s family and other teachers. He encouraged him in art and built his self-esteem. For someone who’s been through a mild form of this learning disability, I sure see a reflection of my Kindergarten teacher in this film!
Most of us have grown up in schools with rigid structures and strict rules. While rules are important, our education structures often kill our dreams. In a society where doing anything out of the ordinary invites dubious eyes, wouldn’t it be great if we had someone who we could salute with the words of Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!”? In “Dead Poets Society”, John Keating (Robin Williams) spoke to his students through poetry and literature and encouraged them to go beyond the rigid structures of society and find themselves. When I watched this movie for the first time, it reminded me of my class 12 English teacher. While she wasn’t as grand as Keating, she had her own way of encouraging someone stuck in the science stream to take up the arts.
Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) was on a mission to make a good women’s national hockey team out of players who didn’t quite understand team spirit. In a country where women’s sports faces atrocious conditions, the film portrayed how a good coach can make a huge difference. I recall feeling pumped up while watching the film. And, Shah Rukh Khan seemed like that teacher in school who’d be able to make kids who didn’t like each other, work on a project together. I watched this film when I was 13, and it made me see the importance of team spirit and how a good teacher can help cultivate that.
Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) was a young fearless teacher who taught her students to be more tolerant and to break away from the stereotypes that have confined them. In a place where everyone was racially divided, she inspired her students to be better individuals and to strive for an education that exists beyond the walls of high school. It made me feel that all the hate that exists in the world doesn’t come naturally to people. The students came from a place and a background that told them that being different was unacceptable. But Erin taught them how to be compassionate. What she gives them is what these high school kids needed the most- a voice.
The Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji starrer film is about the teacher-student relationship between Michelle McNally and her teacher Debraj Sahai. Debraj used harsh teaching methods for Michelle’s long term benefit. He was committed to bringing her into the light and to teach her. Although her parents didn’t approve of Debraj’s methods, they kept him to teach her since they saw some improvement in Michelle’s speech. I was too young to understand what the film meant when I first saw it. However, several years later when I watched it again, I realized how much impact he had on her. I realized it when Michelle made her graduation speech and said that the only person she wanted to see her first in black graduation robes was her teacher, Debraj.
Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) was a free thinking teacher in the 1950s who urged her students to pursue their individuality and not be bound by the gender roles that have been allocated. Katherine teaches them to question social norms and live lives on their own terms. The speech Katherine makes about what lay ahead in the future for the girls was probably one of the most powerful scenes in the film. I remember thinking to myself that if I were to ever become a teacher, I wanted to be like her.
Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade) was a deaf and mute boy who dreamed of making it to the Indian cricket team, one day. However, his father thought that his dreams were a waste of his time and that the team had no place for him. He wanted Iqbal to help him out with the crops and take up farming, instead. After training at an academy didn’t go well, Iqbal sought help from the local drunkard, Mohit (Naseeruddin Shah), who was also a great cricketer. The film gave a really warm feeling of how much someone’s belief in you mattered. Mohit’s unwavering support and confidence in Iqbal helped him clear his Ranji trials despite him having no experience in the sport. When Iqbal didn’t find support from his father, he knew that he could count on his coach. Sometimes, it’s this kind of love and faith one needs to achieve our goals.
Struggling to connect with her students from underprivileged backgrounds, ex-marine turned teacher Louanne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer) was only taken seriously when she showed them her martial arts skills. I think that was when she got their respect. That was also when she established her authority. She took the pain and effort to communicate with students in a way that they would understand. One of the scenes that I really liked was when she had the power to report a fight to the higher authorities and have the kids expelled, she didn’t. By the end of it, her students loved and respected her. What made Louanne Johnson an awesome teacher was her determination to succeed and to try new approaches when one failed. She never gave up on her class even though they were considered as deadbeats.