August 23, 2011

Affective teaching movie scene: Mr. Holland's Opus

A great way to clarify concepts is through movie scenes, because we can fully feel and understand teaching situations through the teacher and student perspectives. I enjoy very much using teacher movies  to promote dialogue with educators at school.

Today I will analyze a part from Mr. Holland’s Opus in which the music teacher Glenn Holland meets with Gertrude Lang, a student who is struggling with the flute. 

The following affective teaching lessons can be learned from these inspiring scenes:

Glen made a diminishing comment when he said "Oh, really" after she told him she had been playing the flute for three years. By making this comment, he conveyed the idea that she didn't have talent for the flute, that she was below his expectations.

Glen volunteered himself to work individually with Gertrude. As a result, Gertrude smiled and was filled with hope and excitement. 

Glen established a dialogue by asking Gertrude if playing the flute was any fun when she was about to leave the room. By making the question he didn’t accept her quitting, valued her thoughts and in a subtle way invited her to think together with him about a solution.

He then admitted his mea culpa in the approach he used to teach her, telling her that his conception of education was wrong, that it wasn’t significant to her as a learner because it emphasized more notes on a page than the enjoyment of making music. This attitude was very important, once it relieved Gertrude of her feelings of despair and incompetence. He placed himself as co-responsible on her progress. 

Glen showed confidence in her playing when he took the song sheet and challenged her to play without it. He was calm when she could not at first, and just asked her to try it again without any judgement.

Glen connected the appreciation of her father to her playing, when he told her to play the sunset. That certainly promoted her well being and confidence in her playing and I consider it very appropriate, specially because she had previously mentioned that she wanted to be valued by her family.  

Last, he showed pride and admiration of their work together by the way he laughed, looked and asked her to continue playing. They were doing what he had missed at first, which was to feel alive playing music, having fun.   

The scene at the end of the movie is a very surprising one, as Gertrude appears as an adult and talks about Glen’s influence on her life. Do watch the movie and separate a box of tissues. 

As teachers we are always projecting reflections of how we see students, which strongly influence children in the development of their self-image. In this movie Glen made a fictional difference, we can make a real one.

Big frug (frog-hug),


Check also the selected affective teaching scenes from Seven Years in Tibet with Brad Pitt. The student? Nobody less than the Dalai Lama!

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