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Screen Lessons

What We Have Learned from Teachers on Television and in the Movies


Edited By Mary M. Dalton and Laura R. Linder

This unprecedented volume includes 30 essays by teachers and students about the teacher characters who have inspired them. Drawing on film and television texts, the authors explore screen lessons from a variety of perspectives. Arranged in topical categories, the contributors examine the "good" teacher; the "bad" teacher; gender, sexuality, and teaching; race and ethnicity in the classroom; and lessons on social class. From such familiar texts as the Harry Potter series and School of Rock to classics like Blackboard Jungle and Golden Girls to unexpected narratives such as the Van Halen music video "Hot for Teacher" and Linda Ellerbee’s Nick News, the essays are both provocative and instructive.

Courses that could use this book include Education and Popular Culture, Cultural Foundations, Popular Culture Studies, other media studies and television genre classes.

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Chapter Three: Class Wars: How to Use Your Jedi Master (Roslin Smith)


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Class Wars

How to Use Your Jedi Master


For teachers in the movies, the mind of a student is the key to education. In The Miracle Worker (1962), Anne Sullivan is charged with taming a wild animal, Helen Keller, into a civilized girl. In To Sir, with Love (1967), Sidney Poitier’s task is to tame rowdy teenagers so they behave as ladies and gentlemen. For the members of the Dead Poets Society (1989), Robin Williams’s iconoclastic English teacher challenges conservative, aristocratic youth to question authority. Meanwhile, Michelle Pfeiffer goes above the call of duty by trying to save her students in Dangerous Minds (1995). One screen teacher physically stands below them all, however. At just over two-feet tall, Yoda is a dress-wearing, ancient, green alien who understands The Force. What he lacks in height is eclipsed by his integrity, patience, and compassion when teaching his students, whether it be the younglings or future Master Jedi. Despite his weird linguistic typology, pointy ears, and bulging eyes, Yoda encompasses several major traits that real life teachers strive to achieve. Therefore, in the vernacular of Yoda, discussing these traits in this chapter shall be done.

Knowledge is one of the important key traits for teachers. Despite George Lucas stating that Yoda is just “The illegitimate child of Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy,” our tiny mentor appears to have a loftier creation (Shenk). According...

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