Top 10 Movies About Teachers

Everyone agrees education is important. Most people agree teachers are valuable. Few people know the difference between learning and teaching. Learning happens naturally when children are fully engaged. Teaching happens when teachers love what they do and share that enthusiasm with the children they teach.

After spending years lecturing at private schools across South Africa, including elite schools like Michaelhouse, I gained a new appreciation for education. As a product of the public school system in the Eastern Cape, the poorest province in South Africa, I overcame substantial obstacles to become a regular guest speaker at elite private boarding schools.

Award winning teacher, John Taylor Gatto reminds us it’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.

The Ultimate History Lesson - John Taylor Gatto

To celebrate 10 years since I started my company, NETucation, here’s my top 10 movies about teachers – some great and others not so great.

  1. Stand and Deliver (1988): Together, one teacher and one class proved to America they could…Stand and Deliver. The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout-prone students to learn calculus. John Taylor Gatto talked about this story many times in his lectures and interviews, so I had to watch it.
  2. Mr Holland’s Opus (1995): We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. A frustrated composer finds fulfilment as a high school music teacher. One of the most beautiful movies about how teachers can change lives.
  3. Dead Poets Society (1989): He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary. English teacher John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day. Carpe diem!
  4. Detachment (2011): A substitute teacher who drifts from classroom to classroom finds a connection to the students and teachers during his latest assignment. A powerful performance by Adrian Brody as a teacher who is broken inside.
  5. Dangerous Minds (1995): Louanne Johnson is an ex-marine, hired as a teacher in a high school in a poor area of the city. She has recently separated from her husband. Her friend, also a teacher in the school, got the temporary job for her. After a terrible reception from the students, she tries unconventional methods of teaching (using karate, Bob Dylan lyrics, etc) to gain the trust of the students.
  6. The Great Debaters (2007): A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College, Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debating team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championships. Even though this is not about school, the teaching influence is primarily in inspiring the students.
  7. Half Nelson (2006): An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret. Ryan Gosling shows glimpses of what makes him a great actor.
  8. One Eight Seven (1997): After surviving a brutal attack (the weapon used was a board with nails in it) by a student, teacher Trevor Garfield moves from New York to Los Angeles. Samuel L. Jackson is always convincing as an authority figure.
  9. Freedom Writers (2007): A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. Some parts of this movie appeal to the sentimental part of me.
  10. To Sir, With Love (1967): About an idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London’s East End.

Honourable mentionRushmore (1998): The film is a personal favourite because the main character reminds me of myself. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious and eccentric 15-year-old, who is both Rushmore’s most extracurricular and least scholarly student, and his businessman friend Herman Blume (Bill Murray) both fall in love with the same female teacher.

More than any other, I recommend you watch The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto, free on Youtube. And if you enjoy it support the Tragedy and Hope community who produced it and receive a discount using the coupon code “RAMONTHOMAS” below.



Three Tips on How You Can Successfully Change Your Career

Change Your CareerHave you hit that point in your career where you just are sick and tired of what it is you’re doing? Maybe you feel like you’re never going to get the promotion you deserve, or maybe you just can’t stand the monotony of your job. Whatever the reason is, it’s time for a career change and you know it.

Lots of people who are sick of their jobs stick with them anyway because of fear. They either think that they’ll never be able to find a new career, or they’re too far in their current career to abandon what they’ve worked for. If that’s you and you’re ready for a change, it’s not as hard as you may think.

Don’t live your life fed up with the career you’ve chosen. Change your career! It’s not as hard as you think. Check out these tips on how to switch careers and live a better, more enjoyable life starting today:

First, Don’t Quit Your Current Job

Finding a new job, especially in a new career field, is tough. It may take you longer than you think, or longer than you’d like. That’s why it’s important that you don’t quit your current job while searching for a new career. You’re also a lot more likely to get hired somewhere if you’re currently employed, rather than unemployed.

It could take weeks or months, maybe even a year, before you find a new career. All that is too long to go without a paycheck. Make the wise decision to search for a new career on your days off or after you’ve gotten off work, just so you have the security of a paycheck until you find a new career.

Consider Going Back to School

Lots of people dread returning to school, but with distance education it’s become very easy to earn a new degree to switch careers. If you’ve got the skills to change careers without a new degree that’s great, but in many cases you’re going to need a degree if you want to start a new career in a completely new field.

Consider distance education and getting a degree from an online college for professionals. There are many benefits to this rather than going to an actual classroom based school, one being that you can study on your own time rather than take off work or cut your hours in order to sit in class. If you’re looking for a simple career change, you probably don’t even need a bachelor’s degree, meaning you can earn your online associate’s degree in two years or less.

Use Your Networks

Chances are you’ve developed lots of connections with people through your current job. Maybe there’s a vendor that you’re friends with, or one of your coworker’s siblings works in an industry that you’re in to. Use those connections to try and network your way into a new career.

Be ruthless, but not annoying. Schedule informational interviews to inquire as to how you can enter those careers. The more people you talk to, the better chance you have at succeeding.

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The School that swapped it's laptops for Ipads…and wants to switch back

There have been several well-publicised stories of schools bringing iPads into the classroom. However, a PC Pro reader has got in touch with a cautionary tale from the other side of the fence.

The reader, who asked not to be identified, is an ICT co-ordinator at a secondary school. He tells how his “image-conscious” headmaster was seduced by a scheme that allowed all the school’s staff to replace their laptop computers with an iPad 2.

Our source says staff were initially thrilled at the prospect. “Most staff are IT illiterate and jumped at the chance of exchanging their laptop for an iPad,” he writes.

Now, however: “the staff room is full of regret.”

What’s gone wrong? The biggest obstacle is that staff still cling to old documents and resources created in software such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and of course there aren’t fully-fledged versions of the Office apps available for the iPad as yet. “Some staff are needing to produce documents and resources by remoting in [to a PC] on an iPad,” our source reveals. “Trying to operate Microsoft Word using a remote app that dumps you out of the connection is a nightmare.”

One of the biggest problems is the storage, since you can’t connect USB memory sticks to it

Staff are also having problems transferring work to their devices. “One of the biggest problems is the storage, since you can’t connect USB memory sticks to it,” our teacher writes, adding that staff are now experimenting with Dropbox to get documents on their tablets, which raises inevitable questions about data security.

The school, somewhat bizarrely, also supplied teachers with Apple TVs to allow them to project their iPad display in the classroom, which seems more than a little extravagant. A simple £25 Apple VGA connector would surely have been a far cheaper and more efficient means of achieving that goal. Especially as the staff are struggling to get the Apple TV to output a full-size image. (Clarification: as several people have pointed out in comments below, the advantage of using Apple TV is that it allows the teacher to beam the iPad picture wirelessly, rather than being tethered to a projector/display, which perhaps makes the decision to deploy them  not quite as bizarre as we first suggested.)

“I tried to use mine for assembly on Friday, but the picture on the Apple TV is smaller than it should be,” our teacher claims. “To add insult to injury, it didn’t recognise my ‘non-standard’ font and so I ended up borrowing an old laptop to deliver the assembly.”

The iPad experiment hasn’t been a total disaster. The staff prefer the tablets for note-taking in meetings, and they use an app called Emerge to access the school’s pupil database. “This is handy for looking up student data quickly,” our teacher explains. “It’s not all that good at adding information, but very powerful when it comes to cornering the buggers and contacting their parents!” Although you have to wonder if the school has enforced passcodes on the teacher’s iPads to prevent that sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.

The school’s iPad experiment sounds like a classic case of the chap with the chequebook making the decision before evaluating whether the hardware meets the needs of his staff. “The iPads should have been rolled out alongside laptops, not instead of them,” our source claims.

With schools now given complete autonomy to spend their IT budget as they see fit, you have to wonder if headteachers across the country are making similarly bad decisions based on little more than gut instinct, appearances and the latest fad.

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Cellphone Lockers for School

Cellphone LockersOne of the recommendations I’m making in severe cases of MXit / cellphone addiction is for schools is to ban cellphones. There is no laws to enforce this and no regulations I’m aware of from the Department of Education. However, one of the emails I’ve received since the Parents’ Guide to MXit has been released in November is the following:

Dear Ramon

My company, Security Cell-Lock, provides schools in SA with a ‘lock up your cellphone during school hours’ system. Learners are playing MXit and sms’ing during the school day. To prevent a total ban we install our units so that the schools have their own ‘safe’ for each learner. It takes away the responsibility from the school and still allows the learner to be accessable to and from school. This keeps mom and dad happy, the school happy and the learner happy (well almost because he cannot play during school time anymore, but he/she is there to learn).

Please contact Brandon Lindsay on Tel: 021 686 3305 or on his company webiste here.