Popular Culture and Feature Films
Particularly, the text draws attention to the complex relationship between the ‘larger than life’ teachers in popular feature films and television serials and the everyday reality of the ‘real classroom’ as defined by cumulative cultural texts. Mitchell and Weber (1999) argue that a cumulative cultural text must have three features; multidimensional, meaning it has popularity: intergenerational, it is timeless and intellectual, material which is continually relevant.
Prospective teachers are a critical demographic amongst the target audience of popular cultural material, as they are invited to readily identify with the larger than fife representations’ portrayed In film and television mediums. Identifying with this representation presents a challenge for many prospective teachers, as popular representations may provide a reflection which exposes their own vulnerabilities as educators.
Mitchell and Weber (1999) discuss that it is “easier to be critical of fictitious teachers than we could otherwise be of ourselves” (p. 164). Hence, critiquing fictitious teachers deflects the potential to scrutinize their own teaching methods and practices. Therefore, the larger than life teacher In popular feature films and texts allows current and pre-serviced teachers to distant themselves from the reality of methods used, experiences encountered and understanding of knowledge and curriculum within a real classroom (Mitchell & Weber, 1999).
Consequently, the relationship between the ‘larger than life teachers’ to the ‘real classroom’ is challenged through providing an insight to the reality of a teachers day to day role and popular screen representations of this. These texts can also alter a negative perception of lazy teachers’ and theoretically convey the reality of a teachers work. Effectively, the authors argue that, cumulative cultural texts encourage discussion and debate regarding the advantages of identifying with these representations in order to redefine the teacher role.
Thus it is evident that cumulative cultural test will “stimulate discussion and reflection in the context of teacher education” (p. 184). Moreover, Mitchell and Weber (1999) strongly argue that popular texts can influence pre-serviced teachers In the wrong way and also one may feel pressured Into fluting Into a mould of a fictitious teacher, therefore these texts construct a certain facade. In order to understand this complex relationship between the ‘larger than life teacher’ to the ‘reality classroom’ Mitchell and Weber (1 999, p. 70) suggest that ‘*we unmask and use the collage of contradictory images, clicks, and stereotypes of teaching to advance professional development”. Thus, one must illustrate how the stereotypes are either wrong or right and portray what really happens In a study these to convey what is correct. In doing so, these representations will not be harmful and somewhat dangerous; hence these texts will not be left with wrong presentations and studies of the ‘reality classroom. ‘ The popular film Freedom Writers (2007) is based on the book, The Freedom Writers Diary (1999).
This film is an example of a cumulative cultural text which conveys how a teacher must reach out to the students and attempt and work out the boundaries which are preventing a student from receiving optimum education, and then identifying with these boundaries. The film is set at a school in Long Beach, California, with ‘at risk students’ in the voluntary integration program; who have received minimal encouragement and limited self-efficacy. The protagonist, teacher Mrs. Erin Gruel, strives to make a difference in the lives of her students through providing a level of encouragement and support.
The film centralists the teacher- student relationship through highlighting a level of reciprocation in that, if you ‘give up’ on a student as a teacher, then it would be expected that the student will to give up on you as an educator. Through studying Freedom Writers, one may be able to understand the challenging work which a teacher may face on a day-to-day basis. Throughout the film, Mrs. Gruel constantly strives to make a connection with her students, as she challenges school policy and manipulates the curriculum to fit the needs of her students.
Additionally, from the perspective of pre-serviced teachers, Freedom Writers may allow them to understand the challenges they may have to face. On the other hand, it may also give light to pre-serviced teachers as it conveys different teaching methods that may be utilized. Mitchell and Weber (1999, p. 168) refer to the movie Dangerous Minds to explain how the teacher, Mrs. Johnson is a “possible role models for searchers, displaying, inserting, and enshrining her image in the cumulative text to be consumed by teens and adults, including practicing and future teachers. Thus it is evident that popular culture texts allow aspiring and experienced teachers to take messages of hope, fear or skepticism from films such as Freedom Writers (Mitchell & web, 1999). A popular text allows one to relate to the film and also provide a sense of nostalgia throughout ones experience within a school or teaching environment. Mitchell and Weber (1999, p. 166) discuss that by analyzing films which may influence one’s reception of a negative stereotype, it can also convey how “their perspective or take’ on the movie has changed, or how certain images have silently colored their views of teaching for years. Therefore, a relationship between the everyday reality of teaching and representations of teaching in popular culture is challenged through a text such as Freedom Writers (2007). This relationship is challenged as this movie portrays a more theoretical approach to educating students, thus a more accurate representation of teachers is provided. All students have a sense of hope and a teacher can find it through connecting and understanding their situation. In saying this, it won’t be easy and it will undertake many measures before receiving the attention from the students.
All students, whether ‘at risk or not must be treated equally, thus the teacher must forget about race, religion and gender in a ‘real classroom’ setting. Nevertheless, Mitchell and Webber analysis of reel popular cultural texts convey teacher representation can be falsely identified through the ‘larger than life teachers. ‘ Teacher perceptions are formed as a result of underlying messages left unexamined. Therefore, without loosely studying the film Freedom Writers, a stereotype of hopeless and incompetent students living within a disadvantaged area is portrayed.
However, Mitchell and Weber (1999, p. 173) argue “texts we saw or read in childhood can provoke self- awareness and help us trace the evolution of our professional views within a changing social context. ” Therefore, Freedom Writers was created to not only comment on the diverse differences, but rather understand how these characteristics of an environment are a challenge for any teacher. It portrays the extent of effort a dedicated teacher puts onto her work, and thus, several teachers may need to push boundaries to reach a goal.
Furthermore, popular representations, to a large extent, are helpful for pre-serviced teachers; however, some representations are not useful in acknowledging the work of classroom teachers. Nevertheless, one should study these popular representations to ensure their usefulness for pre-serviced teachers. The popular representation, the lazy teacher, receiving too many holidays,’ is an exemplification that is not useful for pre-serviced teachers, as this may affect their personal view on the nature of teachers work. Therefore, per-serviced teachers’ may believe that there is not a significant amount of work in regards to a classroom teacher.
However, this representation creates differing views of a teachers work. Mitchell and Weber argue ineffective representations are examples pre-serviced teachers may choose to follow. Initially, some popular representations of a classroom teachers’ work are not useful as it does not realistically convey a teachers’ work. Additionally, representations in Dangerous Minds are useful, as they portray the reality of the work of a classroom teacher. Through film being a main derivation of coacher representations formed, it displays ‘before and after hour’ work of teachers in a realistic manner.