School on the Screen

If you are an educator, there are numerous opportunities for you to cringe when you see a classroom depicted on television or in a movie.

Blackboard Jungle probably started its own genre of the good and idealistic teacher who battles students and administration, race and class. Most of the films are set in high schools rather than colleges. In that film festival we can include To Sir, with Love, Class of 1984, The Principal, Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, Dead Poets Society, Class of 1999, Dangerous Minds, The Substitute, One Eight Seven, The Emperor's Club, Freedom Writers, Hamlet 2. The classrooms are not only American. Last year's French film, Entre les murs (The Class) fits right in with the others.
Have any of these films accurately depicted the classrooms I taught in for many years? Not really. I was lucky to generally not be battling with my students and administration. I'd like to think there were some days, class periods or moments that were as dramatic as some scenes in a few of those films, but no one can sustain that two hours of school on the screen for very long. I actually found the absurdities of a film like Teachers to be more accurate than films like Dangerous Minds.

Schools on the TV screen have probably been more comic than dramatic. Our Miss Brooks ran from 1948-1957 and they may have never completed a single lesson in all those years. But, there have been TV series that fit in with the film festival selections above too.

I recall watching Room 222 in the 1970s which was full of topical issues, and Boston Public addressed hard issues 30 years later. You may know from another post of mine that I was a fan of The Wonder Years which was not a school series, but had a good number of school scenes. It might be that I wanted to see teachers and students actually learning something and enjoying it without knives, drugs, gangs and teen pregnancies.

I can laugh at the school scenes on The Simpsons which are probably more accurate than those on Saved By The Bell.

I started on this post because for the past few weeks I have been seeing promos for a new fall sitcom on NBC called Community. After the promos ran past me a bunch of times, I caught on that it is about a community college. Being that I work at a CC myself, I paid a little more attention and looked at the NBC site.

It's a new fall sitcom. It seems like the show will focus on some new students who form a study group at Greendale Community College. Now, it's a comedy from Dan Harmon (The Sarah Silverman Program) and directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development) which is pretty interesting parentage. Community colleges are hot right now with President Obama's attention and big money going to hem to retrain the workforce. But I don't expect too many issues to make their way into the scripts.

You can even check out the faux college website for the college at (which may end looking better than some real CC sites). Here's what I found there:

Welcome to Greendale Community College, located right in the heart of Greendale, Colorado. We are here for you, and the great people of our city, county and state!
You might ask yourself,"What I can expect from Greendale Community College?" And to that, we say "What can't you expect?" We pride ourselves on giving you, the community college student, more than you expect. We give you what you deserve.
And we do so by sticking to the Straight A's of Greendale: Accessibility, Affordability, Air Conditioning, Awesome New Friends, A Lot of Classes.
Remember here at Greendale Community College, you're already accepted!

Their tuition policy is not much off the mark. (At Passaic County Community College, ours is $66 a credit.)

Your desire for a higher education should not be tied money, especially in this economy. And that's why here at GCC we have adopted the "No More Than $64" Promise. You'll never pay more than $64 per credit hour, allowing you the flexibility to get an education and still afford to go to the movies on a Saturday night. We believe in a strong school-to-life balance here at GCC and affordability is one way we give it to you.

Most schools have their "promotional" websites too. PCCC has its 100 Reasons site and GCC has their their "Campus Connect." You can see that they have the CC mix of students. There is the traditional student like 18 year old Annie who sees GCC as a stepping stone to an Ivy school. There are also those returning students like Britta who "joined the Peace Corps, did some foot modeling, got tear gassed at a world trade rally, went to Africa, woke up one day and realized I was almost thirty and flat broke. So... I got my G.E.D. and here I am: crawling back to society."

I'm sure we'll be meeting faculty and administration too. On the promos, I like Spanish professor, SeƱor Chang (Ken Jeong from The Hangover) who rants about the stereotypes he faces. (Why is an Asian teaching Spanish instead of karate?)

I hope the show has some laughs, and it would be nice if it didn't portray all the teachers as idiots.

Have there been classroom moments on the screen that you connected with as actually being what you have experienced as a teacher, administrator or student? Share a comment below.


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