I like to watch old movies while I work. One of the movies I watched this summer was Mr. Holland’s Opus. This movie is great because I think it does a good job of reflecting the gambit of emotions teachers experience. I’d like to share a bit of thinking I’ve been doing after a significant quote.
Mr. Holland’s administrator tracks him down in the hallway. During the course of the conversation, this exchange takes place:
Mr. Holland: Mrs. Jacobs, I get here on time, every morning, don’t I? I’m doing my job the best I can.
Administrator: A teacher has two jobs: Fill young minds with knowledge, yes. But more important, give those minds a compass so that knowledge doesn’t go to waste.
Getting to work on time every morning and accomplishing the tasks necessary for a functional classroom is not enough to do the job of a teacher well. I’ve always told my friends in other professions that people who go into education have a great advantage.Teachers have more experience with the profession before their first day on the job than anyone else in any other profession. We watched our teachers in every grade through senior year, again in undergraduate classes, and then again in the work past the baccalaureate degree. We get more practice in our profession before it actually counts than any other through the student teacher experience. We may get more practice on “filling young minds with knowledge,” but there is no way to really practice being a compass.
No matter how prepared a teacher is, being a compass for those kids is something that you’re constantly learning and adapting. A compass is only good if it guides and directs in the right direction. Sometimes I’m right on with this and pointing my students toward success. Other times I’m not guiding my students in the right direction. I want to make sure that I’m living up to my task as a compass.
By the way, this is still one of my favorite teacher movies, and I still cried at the last scene.