Why I Teach: 5 Books and Movies with Inspiring Educators

I’d like to introduce you all to Caitlyn! She’s a middle school teacher in North Texas (an amazing one at that) and a wonderful friend of mine. Check out her picks of books and movies that help her along her teaching journey.  Enjoy!  -Sam

I’m one of those brave individuals that has chosen [been called to] a career as a teacher. I didn’t sign on because I wanted to have my summers free (although it is a beautiful perk) and I certainly didn’t embark on this journey because I thought it’d be easy (because in fact, nothing could be further from the truth). But it is my joy and my privilege to impart some small bit of knowledge on a set of middle school students every year.

I find inspiration in almost everything, even this Starbucks I’m sitting in. I really like the seating arrangements in this space and I’m making notes – ha! The greatest source of inspiration for me comes from books and movies. They are my love language. After a difficult day, I know I can read a chapter or watch a few minutes of a favorite story and it’ll fill my sails for the next day.

These are five movies and books that have been a source of motivation and encouragement at some point in my career.

Dead Poets Society (starring Robin Williams)
O Captain! My Captain! If you’ve ever seen this gem, then you’re probably nodding your head in a very, Ahh…of course kind of way. Mr. Keating is one of the reasons I love poetry and why I find it essential to teach in a free kind of way – no right or wrong, but interpretation and feeling. This movie reminds me that each person has the right to explore their own identity – what brings them joy, inspires them and fulfills them. I teach Walt Whitman’s poem O Captain! My Captain to my 8th graders and I love showing them the clip from this movie with that iconic line. Mr. Keating encourages me to be a source of inspiration to my kiddos, showing them that they can make their lives extraordinary.

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

anne-of-green-gables-9781442490000_hrThe Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
Oh, Anne Shirley, my bosom friend and kindred spirit. She inspires me all the time. Anne taught me that it’s a privilege and a joy to get to learn and that, in turn, it’s a privilege and a joy to teach. I admire early teachers that had one classroom full of students of all ages and how they managed to teach them all at the same time. Can you imagine the lesson planning? And Anne didn’t even have Pinterest to help a girl out. She’s the OG teacher, y’all. Another thing I love about Anne is her love of words and the way she sees her own imagination as a tool. She’s a drama queen for sure, but she can dream herself out of any bad situation and turn darkness into light with the right turn of phrase.

“Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them–that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

Mona Lisa Smile (starring Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal)
Katherine Ann Watson is the kind of teacher who lives outside the box. She taught life and joy and purpose by encouraging her students to see the world in different ways, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. One thing I love about this movie is its message that you are who you say you are and not who society dictates you to be. That’s the takeaway I want my students to get from my class. Literature (or art, in this movie’s case) can show you an avenue of life you’d never imagined.qev0wscxg5qjvzwglzx2

“Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image.”

harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stoneHarry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Ahh, Hogwarts. The ultimate dream job as an educator. Ok, I’ve been teaching for a couple of years now…am I Professor McGonagall yet? But really, when I think about this series and education, I think about characters like Hermione, who taught me that it’s ok to be smart and to enjoy learning, and Neville, who showed us that sometimes the bright and passionate people are hiding in the corner somewhere. I think about these books in my classroom and in my lessons all the time. I have Hermiones and Nevilles every year, as well as Dracos and Rons, Harrys and Freds. McGonagall and Dumbledore remind me that you can be loved and respected and valued, while also being firm and consistent (and sassy…so, so sassy).

“Our heads could do with filling with some interesting stuff…so teach us something worth knowing, bring us back what we’ve forgot. Just do your best, we’ll do the rest, and learn until our brains all rot…”

Boy Meets World (TV series)
Ok, this one is a little bit of a cheat because it isn’t a movie or a book, but come on. Don’t all teachers want an Eric Matthews to do the Feeny call at them? FEENY! FEEEENNYYYY! That’s the dream. This series is hilarious and heartwarming and it never gets old. There are a few episodes in particular that I go back to when I’m needing a little encouragement in my day job. Characters like Mr. Feeny and Mr. Turner inspire me in the way they teach. They challenge their students in all areas of their lives, not just in their academics. They wanted Cory and the gang to be well rounded individuals, capable of sound reasoning (which wasn’t always possible) and independent thought. When I was younger and watching new episodes on TV, I kept thinking how great it would be if I could have the type of influence over a classroom that they both did. Goals and dreams, friends. Time will tell!

Happy reading and watching! – Caitlyn

Editors Note: Here at Half Price Books, we LOVE our teachers, librarians and other educator friends! What better way to say THANK YOU than to dedicate a whole weekend just to them, Educator Appreciation Weekend! Year-round, we offer educators an extra 10% off their purchases at Half Price Books with the Educator Discount Card, but from October 6-10, we’ve boosted the savings to 20% off as an extra special thanks. Interested in learning more?  Find all the details here. 

Caitlyn, is a Texas middle school teacher and blogger.
You can follow her blog online at rhodesofreading.com

3 thoughts on “Why I Teach: 5 Books and Movies with Inspiring Educators

  1. I recently retired and have great memories of the years I taught. I live in a small town and love the many times I run into former students. I can see even more students and tell them how proud I am of their successes on social media. Now I have the time and energy to read what I enjoy and choose books for my little grandchildren.

  2. Mr. Feeney of Boy Meets World was a VERY creepy individual who likely would be terminated, hopefully, in today’s world of education. No one found it odd or disturbing he moved up in grade level with them EVERY year? Of course this is the fantasy of television and education does not work that way, but as parent and student I would find that quite creepy.

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