May 3rd was the beginning of Education Week in Canada so I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for Teachers. Yes, those hardworking, much-maligned role models that take care of our children for most of the day, trying to educate them (usually in spite of themselves)! The talented ones can even make students ENJOY the learning process. And I am sure most of us have had the experience in our youth of having had a crush on a special teacher! Come on... you know you have!
Here's Elton John singing "Teacher I Need You" from his 1973 album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
Well, this video might be a bit hokey, and a tear-jerker, but I couldn't help including it, because I know that many teachers do go out of their way to help students in many ways:
Stage and Screen
I had the great pleasure recently to attend a stage production of the play Educating Rita by Willy Russell at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. It was very well done and I enjoyed it immensely. I had previously seen the movie version, so I knew the plot, and even though the play never moved beyond the confines of a professor's office, the characters were so realistically portrayed that they did seem to have a life of their own off stage.
Andrew Gillies as Frank and Mairi Babb as Rita in Educating Rita. Photo by Bruce Monk.
Susan, or Rita (as she likes to call herself), is an Adult Education student who enrolls in an English literature course at a local college. She wants to better herself to get out of her rut as a hairdresser and learn what it is that the upper classes seem to know. Hard-drinking, and a failed poet, Professor Frank Bryant is not looking forward to tutoring her. But when she breezes into their first meeting, he can't help but be charmed by her unfettered candour and thirst for learning.
I had been looking forward to seeing this play as I had really enjoyed watching the film version of Educating Rita (1983) with Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Of course the film fleshes out the play a bit with some extra scenes but it still maintains the integrity of the play. What is unusual about this work is that although it is a comedy, it touches on soul-searching issues about what a person needs to make them satisfied with their life. Is it knowledge of the academic kind or could it actually be self-knowledge that is necessary, but how does one find out, unless they are allowed to discover it for themselves? Rita's friends, and especially her husband try to hold her back and keep her from changing. By the end, both Rita and her mentor have grown through their friendship with each other.
Now for a journey through film history for some of my favourite teacher roles. Of course I saw this one much later in life, and although it takes place in the 1950's many of the issues in it are still very relevant today. Namely, how do you motivate inner-city kids who have only been educated in the school of Hard Knocks!?
Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier
Speaking of Sidney Poitier, who can forget him as the teacher in To Sir With Love (1967)?!
I have always had a crush on Sidney Poitier -- how much more so had he ever been my teacher! In this film he manages to inspire a bunch of lazy, rude, working class teens into behaving like well-mannered ladies and gentlemen who honour him with a special tribute when they hear he is intending to leave the school.
To Sir With Love was based on a memoir by E.R. Braithwaite.