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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 Eighteen: Unexpected Opportunities: Teaching and Learning While Pregnant (Abigail Kindelsperger)


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Unexpected Opportunities

Teaching and Learning While Pregnant


At first glance, Samantha Abbott (Cobie Smulders) seems to fit the standard Hollywood teacher mold: she is White, thin, conventionally beautiful, and she teaches at an all-Black high school in Chicago’s most blighted neighborhood. Unexpected (2015) written and directed by Kris Swanberg, is not another hero teacher narrative, however. No students get “saved,” no unconventional teaching methods are showcased, Sam’s school is closed at the end of the year, and she does not exert effort to change that. At the end of the film, Sam’s teaching career has been cut short, or perhaps just interrupted, by circumstance. When she discovers she will be having a baby in late July, she gives up any attempt at securing a job, stating that no one would hire a teacher who will be on maternity leave at the start of the school year. Notably, her dream job is out of the classroom as an education coordinator at a museum.

Like many young teachers who leave the field, Sam is competent, if not great. We are never quite sure because we do not get to see much of Sam’s teaching. The few glimpses into her classroom show it in a refreshingly realistic light: a little noisy but not out of control. Her calm and affectionate tone reminds me of my own approach. While our content differs (she teaches science,...

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