Dead Poets' Society voted teachers' favourite film about school life

21st November 2013 at 13:58

Teachers have voted Dead Poets' Society their favourite film about school life, in a list that asked the profession to vote for their top 100 movies of all time.

But, overall, when it came to choosing their favourite movies, teachers were far more likely to settle down to watch a comedy, thriller or action flick than one about life at the chalkface.

The TES gathered more than 700 responses from the teaching workforce to decide their best 100 films and without giving the top spot away it has nothing to do with the craft of teaching itself. The full list will be published in tomorrow's TES magazine.

The highest placed picture that uses the profession as its subject matter is the 1989 Robin Williams hit, Dead Poets Society, in which Williams plays an English teacher who inspires his students to seize the day. 

The next highest film set in school is the celebrated musical Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. While it may regularly played out in school halls up and down the land, a critique of what life is like at the chalk face it is not. 

The 1960s classic To Sir, with Love, starring Sidney Poitier, who plays the quintessential inspirational teacher working in a challenging school in London’s east end, does not get a look in. 

Nor is there a mention for Stand and Deliver, the celebrated film based on the true story of a teacher who inspires his students to learn calculus to boost their self-esteem. The students do so well in their tests, however, they are accused of cheating. In real life it cost the teacher his job. 

And perhaps, most surprisingly, there is no place for the most well-known movie to use a teacher as the central character, that of Goodbye, Mr Chips, which won Robert Donat an Oscar back in 1939.

What the list does show is that the all-consuming nature of teachers’ jobs means that when they sit down to watch a movie, all they want to do is get away from it all.

The Oscar-winning director Lord David Puttnam, who is himself heavily involved in education, said the list showed teachers as normal people. 

“This list is, I think, all about teachers as 'movie-goers' and TV viewers, and not as 'teachers' as such – I think you'd get a remarkably similar list if you asked doctors, nurses or social workers,” he said before joking, “Although they might have added at least one of mine.” 

“I was really amused at the inclusion of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which I happen to love. Who was it the teachers identified with, I wonder?” he added. 


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