By Irina Pino
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.