Words and Pictures

Teachers generally appreciate films that shine a light on their profession. As a recently retired English teacher, I can recall a number of teacher movies I’ve enjoyed, even the ones that highlight our flawed selves.

Several come immediately to mind: To Sir with Love (1967), Stand and Deliver (1988), Dead Poets Society (1989), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), Freedom Writers Diary (2007), The Great Debaters (2007).

And now, I will add to the list Words and Pictures (2013), starring Clive Owen as flamboyant prep school English teacher Jack Marcus, and Juliet Binoche as abstract painter and stoic new teacher on campus, Dina Delsanto.

The on-screen chemistry of these two, as well as their flirtatious bantering, positions them as adversaries in the war Jack declares – Words and Pictures. Watching the students engage in the battle is an educator’s delight.

The conflicts revolve around the drinking problem of the brilliant, but arrogant Jack, a one-time literary star, and Dina’s frustration over the difficulty rheumatoid arthritis brings to her own painting career. Others include a father-son relationship stumble and a male-female student abusive situation.

What I love most about teacher films is that they cause me to consider and reconsider the impact of education and the power (or lack of) one has to influence another’s life for the good (or bad). They make me think about the techniques and strategies that work well and about those that don’t. They make me wonder why some are drawn to make teaching their life’s work. They make me wish I could go back and have some do-overs. But ultimately, they challenge me to want to know more about everything and everyone.

What makes the light bulbs turn on in our students’ minds? What teaching methods or habits do we employ that turn those bulbs off?

In retrospect, I can think of a few that might have distracted some of mine. Reflectively now, I can only hope they knew I truly cared about their lives and their potentials and their futures.

Enjoy the trailer! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JX6NScig7M

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