The movie “Larry Crowne”
Although the student’s work is important, it is the teacher’s performance that influences the class in general and the way students learn. Therefore, it is essential for the teacher to be able to work with the students, engage them and attract them to the described material, as well as keep good discipline and respect in class.
The movie “Larry Crowne” describes different teaching methods that can be seen with the teacher of economics and the teacher of speech. The person who teaches speech is Mercedes Tainot (she is played by Julia Roberts), who is unhappy and unmotivated due to her personal problems. Her teaching strategies and overall performance are to be analysed in the paper.
In the beginning, we see the teacher enter the classroom, saying that the class is cancelled because there are not enough people. She clearly is happy because of that, and she adds she did not want to have a class in the morning. When Larry Crowne appears, he makes enough people to have a class, much to the teacher’s annoyance. She says that the class will teach them to care, but she clearly does not care herself, looking annoyed. At the very beginning of the class, she assigns her student to give a speech without giving them any explanation on the subject. The students prepare the speech for the next class about the thing they know well, but the movie does not tell whether the teacher has actually helped them to develop a speech. Also, when Larry misses the class, the teacher is very angered. She counts the amount of students, interrupts a student who is presenting and shows that she has not been listening, which angers the student and upsets the audience. She then sees Larry and angrily tells him that he will be the one presenting next time.
There is one thing that is particularly bad about Mercedes Tainot’s teaching; these are her personal prejudices, which enable her to be just and fair, but dictate her relations and treatment of students. For instance, she appears inattentive and angered when particular students speak, preventing her from objectively evaluating their skills.
The movie shows that the teacher’s performance is largely influenced by her personal life, and as she experiences some positive changes on her way, she becomes more willing to teach and to care herself. The scenes later in the film depict the teacher showing the students some important speaking and breathing techniques, and the audience finally sees the teacher actually teaching, instead of staring unhappily, as her students present. She, finally, becomes a better teacher because she decides to make a change for herself and do something positive in her life, and that influences her teaching and the class’ performance in a good way.
Thus, in the beginning, the teacher performs poorly because she does not try to establish good communication with students and does not engage them. She is not responsive and it appears like she has no knowledge of pedagogy. Although she sets a learning outcome, she does not design student assessments, and it is quite difficult to understand how she evaluates her students, taking into consideration the fact that the movie has almost no scenes of her actually presenting some material to the students.
Although she does not show any interest in her students in the beginning of the film, it shows that she tries to develop better relations with them by the end of the film and develops as a professional. Therefore, the audience sees the transformation of a sad teacher into a better one who tries to be more positive and eager to motivate the students to learn. Interestingly though, despite the fact that the teacher is rather bad in the beginning, the students are still trying to perform and prepare presentations, despite the lack of practical information given to them (Holden, 2011). Therefore, it is possible to say that the good students add to the positive transformation of the teacher because she is lucky to get the students who care from the start. It is rather unusual because teachers often have to deal with the students who may lack motivation, but here, the audience sees the students motivating the teacher.
This may be one of the interesting qualities of the movie “Larry Crowne” because it depicts different types of teacher. In a way, it compares the teacher of speech to the teacher of economics who has a much bigger class and approaches the teaching much more seriously. The movie itself is interesting because of the contrasts it plays, showing different teachers. It also shows the personalities of teachers which help to understand their professional actions better and justify or, at least, explain them.
Nevertheless, besides this contrast and good acting by Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, the movie does not really have anything else to show off. The plot is rather boring, with student life being described very flat, and the same applies to actual education. The movie simply strengthens the existing Hollywood stereotypes about the teachers because they are described as the carriers of two opposite stereotypes. The first stereotype is the unhappy bored teacher who does not want to motivate the students and does the minimum simply to get the wage. The second stereotype is a demanding teacher who has no personal life and a weird sense of humour. Nevertheless, these are the stereotypes which do not actually show the real humans behind the teachers. The movie simply strengthens the idea that the teachers are unhappy to teach because they are miserable in their personal lives, and that is why they need something or someone special to change the situation, but that is the wrong idea that should not be promoted. There is a dividing line between the personal and professional lives, and one should not influence the other. Of course, it is difficult, and it may sometimes be impossible for the people to keep a good work when everything falls apart in their personal lives. Nevertheless, one has to try and solve the problems whenever they rise.
The movie depicts the students’ life very unrealistically because it shows this motivated and eager group of students without showing any downsizes of education. In other words, the students are depicted from one side only, and the character of Tom Hanks is very likable, but not very realistic. Therefore, it is difficult to take the movie seriously. Instead of showing the education from within or making people think about it differently, it depicts two troubled people and the way they get together.
The movie always shows a new phenomenon of students performing well, despite the teacher’s passiveness, but then, this is not the idea that should be cultivated. After all, the character of Julia Roberts is likable, but not to the point to be followed.
The movie has its interesting points like seeing the evolution of Mercedes and her happy ending or the development of Tom Hanks’ life, but there are few things besides that, that make the movie enjoyable. The movie’s originality is that it contradicts the idea that the “bad teacher” is to blame for the bad performance, which is a very widespread belief (Kumashiro, 2012). The film, on the contrary, shows that the students can perform well without much help from the teacher.
Henceforth, the movie does not have any special qualities that make it stand out from the rest, but it has some interesting ideas on the teacher’s development.