Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lean on Me

I just finished watching the movie Lean on Me, starring Morgan Freeman. The movie is about an inner-city high school plagued with gangs, drugs, and violence. Their test scores are dreadfully low, and the school faces being shutdown by the state. Morgan Freeman's character is recruited by the superintendent to come in as principal and turn things around. The movie was made in 1989, but I think the challenges Freeman's character faces, while far more extreme, are very similar to the ones we face today.

It was interesting for me to watch in light of all the discussions I have been having lately with Mr. Meister and other teachers in the building about how to improve our school. Some of the biggest things that we have talked about is community involvement, parental support, and student buy-in. In the movie, those are exactly the areas that Freeman's character focuses on, as well. He goes to extraordinary lengths to show the students that he cares about their future. He visits the home of a student whose mother says she can't take care of her anymore and offers to help the mother find a better job and a better place to live so that she could provide a better life for her daughter. He is a tough, demanding, unwavering disciplinarian, and at one point, almost his entire staff is on the verge of walking out on him because of his harsh approach towards motivating them to do better for their students, but he gets results.

I guess the biggest thing I got from the movie was a sense of motivation to try harder to reach my students, to impress upon them the importance of education, to continue to hold them to a higher standard, and to continue to push them until they meet that standard. Everyone in the movie thought he was the meanest, most selfish scoundrel imagineable to begin with, but when the school went from being a battlefield where no learning took place to one where students were excited to learn, it was all worth it.