I was having a tough time remembering the Titans, so I decided to show their movie to my English classes. Here’s a few teaching lessons I picked up in the process:
1. Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is a major hard-ass. Lovable, but a hard-ass nonetheless. For example, his players are required to run a mile if they drop a pass, miss a blocking assignment or fumble. When they fumble, Coach Boone will also break his foot off in their John Brown hind parts. While his tough love approach doesn’t win him many fans at first, he eventually gains the respect of most of his players and colleagues.
Most people prefer to be well-liked. Even teachers. It is sometimes tempting to do the things that will most please your students. But this is rarely what is best for them. As Coach Boone tells one of his assistant coaches, “You ain’t doin´these kids a favor by patronizing them. You’re crippling them.”
It can be really healthy for students–even the well-behaved ones–to receive a bad grade or have a note sent home to their parents. That’s how they learn there isn’t some cosmic order designed to make them happy all the time.
2. First impressions aren’t always accurate. Remember the Titans takes advantage of nearly every coming-together-despite-our-differences-and-learning-to-love-each-other cliché that exists. But its theme of initial mistrust leading to cautious acceptance and, in the end, friendship still resonates.
As it relates to the work I’m doing in Andahuaylillas, it’s important to remember that every class is a fresh start. I have very consciously tried to never give up on a student, no matter how many disrespectful actions, outbursts or bad classes we’ve had. I’ve seen a number of so-called “bad kids” demonstrate clear progress when someone expresses even the smallest degree of faith in their ability to do better than they’re doing. It’s exactly like that scene when Gerry Bertier calls Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass a fruitcake because he has long hair, but Sunshine happens to be a killer quarterback. My students are just a bunch of Sunshines waiting to throw the ball and hit Gerry in the back.
3. Perseverance pays off. I once heard someone say something along the lines of, “You can’t lose if you never quit.” While that sounds like a trite attempt at profundity taken from Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Titans’ success is as much due to a kind of relentlessness as it is to talent and all the other crap that never allowed me to be a good football player. If you show up, consistently, it will usually pay dividends somewhere along the line.
It’s nice to show my students a movie and learn a few things in the process. I wonder what pearls of wisdom I might snatch if I show them RoboCop.