Teachers Should Be a Source of Motivation

By Irina Pino

Screenshot from Mr. Holland staring Richard Dreyfuss

HAVANA TIMES – I don’t know if you remember the movie Mr. Holland, with Richard Dreyfuss playing the lead, about a musician who played in a band and then became a teacher.

His greatest wish was to compose and make a living from music, but his son was born and he needed to buy a new house, which turned his plan on its head.

He worked as a teacher for 30 years. It was hard for him to get his students interested in classical music in the beginning, so he had the great idea to add rock and roll to the syllabus, to get them interested in learning.

This movie pays homage to education. There is a critical moment in Holland’s first class when he asks his students what music is. Nobody says anything. Half of them out of ignorance, the other half because they aren’t motivated to do so.

This lack of motivation prevails in education systems everywhere, placed within the confines of rigid structures. Students long for the bell to ring, for classes to end so they can escape.

My experience, my nieces and nephews’ experience and my son’s experience have all shown me that a strict curriculum and teaching methodology only promote rejection.

This is why I wonder whether we really did learn anything from the teachers we had growing up.

My Math teacher in high school made me hate the subject because I didn’t get it. He didn’t care in the slightest about helping those who needed a little more help (such was my case). Meanwhile, my History teacher made us memorize dates and events as if we were parrots. We were spoon-fed English.

I remember that a high school Chemistry would tell us about his sexual experiences before the end of class… at least that one was a bit of a freak.

I had really good grades in Literature, in spite of a teacher who was a dictator, and he’d almost never give anyone an Excellent.

When we had to read Shakespeare, I suggested we organize and put on a performance of Romeo and Juliet. However, he objected saying that it wasn’t on the school’s curriculum.

We were bound to teachers who wouldn’t dare to teach us in innovative ways, like the unforgettable John Keating in Dead Poets Society, who encouraged his students to live life and poetry. Carpe Diem.

Decades later, the mistakes of those teachers who were at the heart of our education, who were unable to teach different subjects, led to academic setbacks. They were insecure, and had a shaky culture foundation.

I think that school should be the ideal place for us to celebrate knowledge. A place where there are music, photography, painting and movie projects, or anything else possible.

You need to have a calling to teach. I wish for human beings, for professionals like Holland and Keating, to influence young people’s lives and to help make them better people.

Read more from Irina Pino’s diary here.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.


One thought on “Teachers Should Be a Source of Motivation

  • December 24, 2020 at 8:18 am
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    “This lack of motivation prevails in education systems everywhere, placed within the confines of rigid structures.”

    It is difficult to make overly generalized statements on such a broad issue as education but what Irina states has some very specific truths from different perspectives.

    In Canada, specifically the province of Ontario elementary and secondary students have to take their education via “on-line learning” primarily because of the pandemic. Government officials feel that not having students in public places like schools will perhaps prevent students from being exposed and/or transmitting this communal pandemic. So, all learning has been primarily subjected to home schooling via computers and laptops. Teachers broadcast their lessons to waiting students at students’ homes.

    However, even before the pandemic proliferated government educational officials were beginning to institutionalize on line learning in the classroom much to the chagrin of teachers and students. Teachers not adverse to this new innovative teaching methodology became very frustrated. Students, also, accustomed to being in the classroom, socializing, and physically interacting with their teachers also felt thwarted, and continue to be so.

    Irina writes: “My experience, my nieces and nephews’ experience and my son’s experience have all shown me that a strict curriculum and teaching methodology only promote rejection.” Likewise, here in the province of Ontario many, many elementary and secondary students are feeling abandoned and disappointed. The new technological teaching methodology incorporated by the provincial government is very disconcerting for parents. Some students, indeed, feel rejected and alienated to this distant education mode. Teachers feel rejected because the government will not listen to their legitimate concerns.

    Students sitting at home eyes glued to their computers or laptops for hours at a time does not enhance productive learning at all. Teachers have to spend precious teaching time trying to master the technical methodology adding to the cumbersome so called “classroom” experience.

    I certainly agree with Irina when she writes: “I think that school should be the ideal place for us to celebrate knowledge. A place where there are music, photography, painting and movie projects, or anything else possible.”

    I remember when I went to school both in elementary and secondary, school was a place where students could join the photography club, practice art in Art class, play musical instruments in the school band, play sports and participate in team building activities. These basic educational activities seem to be lacking in Cuba today, according to Irina, but also lacking to some extent in some Canadian schools because of this new technological enhanced on line learning and teaching methodology.

    Yes, the whole purpose of schools and education in general, whether one is a student in Cuba or Canada, is to prepare youth to become full fledged participating and social members of society. Without those noble, fundamental worthy purposes engrained in the universal school system, society is short changed, suffers.

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