There are some things that might not be best for elevating one’s intellectual capacity, but one guilty pleasure I have is watching School of Rock, a movie starring Jack Black who gets kicked out of a rock band and ends up substitute teaching. He has no educational training or passion for teaching, but winds up becoming this great teacher, instilling passion and drive in his students….so annoying.
I have a love/hate relationship with bad teacher movies. It’s irksome to watch characters playing teachers who stumble upon some teaching trick, and suddenly they become “Teacher of the Year.” Often there are ridiculous scenes where teachers behave improbably. In School of Rock, Jack Black’s character walks into the teachers’ lounge where the teachers are earnestly discussing the merits of the Stanford Binet…Yeah, this is how teachers spend their precious fifteen minutes while shoveling in their Lean Cuisines. Yet, the movie researchers do get some things right, and the things that are right can be added to a solid teaching repertoire.
While Black’s character didn’t demonstrate educational innovations, he did remind me of a few good practices. He implements project based learning by creating a rock band with the students. He gives them a real world goal by entering them in the Battle of the Bands contest. He provides mini-lessons to give students background knowledge on classic Rock bands using complicated webs to show students how the roots of Rock are connected. He gives individualized homework based on the students’ needs, and provides students plenty of time to practice, explore their styles, and coaches the students to refine their skills.
Additionally, there is much student driven activity. While Black assigns students their jobs, he is open to students who argue their need to fulfill a different role. One student didn’t groove to his assigned role and argued his need to create the band costumes. Even though this student determined his own role, he still researched, practiced, and demonstrated the skills needed to create a successful outcome. Also, the would-be costume designer was still subjected to criticism (formative assessment) which pushed him to
refine his skills.
Finally, it was time for the students to show what they learned (summative assessment); it was time to perform in the Battle of the Bands. Surprisingly, the students did not win first place, but they learned the big lesson. They gave a kick %$#@ show, and that, according to their teacher, was the pinnacle of a Rock band performance. In other words, they passed with flying colors.
I guess we teachers see lessons everywhere, even in some less-than-stellar movies, or maybe I’m just trying to justify my guilty pleasure.