If you want to teach, why not?
“School of Rock” is a funny movie and I believe that is the purpose of the movie. From a business standpoint, it is accessible to a variety of audiences. Part of the reason for this is that the majority of the movie takes place in a school and everyone has attended school.
In general, people in our society consider themselves to have an educated opinion about school because nearly all of our citizens have attended as students. Attending school as a teacher is a drastically different viewpoint than most people have experienced. Movies that have a teacher as a protagonist give many people their most in-depth look at what teaching is like.
In the early 2000s, there was a television show called “Boston Public.” There were things I liked about the show in terms of how it portrayed teaching and public schools. However, the story behind one of the main characters always bothered me. Actress Jeri Ryan played a high powered lawyer who decided to leave the glory of her well-paying job to become an inner-city teacher. The part that bothered me was that she needed no training to step into a classroom and teach somewhat effectively. The message that I took was that anyone who is smart is able to be a good teacher. As a teacher, I think this is misleading to people who do not have an intimate understanding of what teaching entails.
In “School of Rock” Jack Black is teaching to earn some money. He is not trained to teach nor does he seem to see teaching as something on which he would like to work. When he comes across the teaching job that we journey through with him, he is not a good teacher. He uses the class time as a way to fulfill his own desire to perform in a contest for rock bands. His mantra for the value of rock music is “sticking it to the man,” which is a rebellious cry for kids in a strict private school. In a bizarre way, this is how Jack Black’s character becomes a “good” teacher. As in many shows or movies about teachers, the “good” ones connect with their students on their turf. In “School of Rock,” the students’ parents are making creative decisions for their children and their teacher is allowing them to tap into this forbidden expression.
I think that it is essential to form strong relationships with students. For some students, any intellectual risks are terrifying until trust has been built. I do not think Jack Black’s role as teacher did a realistic job of showing this facet of teaching effectively. This movie makes it seem like if a person can put on a good show, then they can be a teacher. However, the children were not really able to explore their interests unless they jived with the teacher’s values. In a scene where the students are sharing their musical interests, their teacher blasts every response. While this makes for a silly movie, I hope viewers do not think that teaching is that simple. This reaction to students sharing their personal feelings would be detrimental to relationships. And yet the kids protest mildly at most.
Ultimately, some students were completely left out of the band or given meaningless jobs. I was happy at that the kids were able to “rock out” at the end of the movie and that our silly protagonist was able to use music to have a career. In fact, there is a student who is able to open himself up and share his own writing. With this particular student, “School of Rock” was a valuable experience. I wouldn’t say that is true for the whole class though. If you look at this movie form that student’s point of view, this was a good example of teaching. However, most teachers want to provide opportunities for all of their students, not just the ones who are receptive to rock music.
Again though, we have a non-teacher who can put on a good show and miraculously turns into a teacher who is in control of his class. Classroom management is more than putting on a good show. Building authentic relationships is more than getting kids to like your music.