Making the Grades
In the 1967 film, To Sir With Love, Mark Thackery (Sidney Poitier) is an unemployed engineer who resorts to taking a public school teaching position as a temporary financial solution while he continues to search for a job in his field. But the refined and cool-headed gentleman isn't prepared for the rowdy group of dirty delinquents he meets on his first day of class. For many of these teenagers, school is just a break from the daily challenge of eking out life on the mean streets of London. Cocky, foul-mouthed, and uncontrollable, they are bent on disposing of this new teacher as quickly as they did the last one. A lot of head butting goes on until Thackery tries a novel approach to educating his students about life in the real world.
Demanding common courtesy and respect among his pupils is only the first step. His battles also extend beyond the classroom to the narrow-minded school administrators, and fighting against the inbred social ideas that hold his students in a dead-end mindset. Facing numerous racial slurs and backhanded comments by disgruntled fellow teachers and misguided parents, the cultured and world-traveled educator's most valuable teaching tool is his personal example of someone who has risen above social stereotypes. While everyone does not respond to his efforts, Thackery remains vigilant in his attempts to make positive changes.
Having recently returned from a performing tour with a group of musical elementary students, I observed firsthand the untiring efforts of my son's music director and gained a greater appreciation for teachers-- the unsung heroes of childhood. To Sir With Love is a touching tribute to those exceptional educators who enlighten, encourage and open the eyes of their students, by going above and beyond the mark.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about To Sir With Love.
Everything old is new again. Did any of the clothes and hairstyles in this movie look similar to the fashions of today (2001)?
What do you think was significant about Mr. Thackery’s in-class salad-making demonstration that used common ingredients in a new way? What could this teach them about seeing new ways to succeed in life?
Have you ever had a teacher that positively impacted your life?