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Former Inner-City School Teacher Reflects on Teachers in Pop Culture

Former Inner-City School Teacher Reflects on Teachers in Pop Culture

Shea Serrano worked at an inner-city school in Houston, Texas for years and loved every minute on it. As school goes back in session, he reflects on his experience in the teaching profession and notes what pop culture gets both right and wrong about it.

Serrano, in a post for, said his inspiration for teaching came at a young age when he was introduced to the Mr.Turners of the classroom- the cool, young male teachers that put their legs up on desks and emphasized real-world learning as did Mr. Turner in the popular sitcom, Boy Meets World.

As Serrano grew up and became a teacher himself, he noticed what Hollywood gets right and what it gets wrong about the teaching profession.

For one, one of the biggest misconceptions about teachers that Hollywood movies portray show them teaching only one class with a group of twenty or so students to focus on, Serrano says.

"My first year as a teacher, I taught two sixth-grade classes, two seventh-grade classes, and two eighth-grade classes, and each of them had somewhere between 25 and 30 kids. That’s almost 180 kids. Hilary Swank had, like, 22 kids total in Freedom Writers..." he said.

And of course, though School of Rock would suggest that teachers can convince students to join a rock band and kidnap them to bring them to a rock show, they can't. They also can't play Russian Roulette with their students as the movie 187 might suggest, Serrano wants you to know.

But, Hollywood does get some very important things right about the teaching profession in spite of dramatizations.

Serrano can relate to Dangerous Minds because he says in his experience it is true that "[a] kid will eventually say something to you that will destroy you,"

Whereas in Dangerous Minds the teacher was Mrs. Johnson and the student Emilio, in real life the teacher was Serrano and the student Vincente. Vincente was a special-ed eighth-grader that Serrano taught who he says he will never forget. Driven and inspired, Vincente had a learning disability that disabled him from comprehending any problem beyond a first-grade level. Despite his learning setbacks, he worked and struggled to persevere. It wasn't enough.

At the end of his eighth-grade year, after I’d passed out the final report cards and the papers that said whether the students had passed or failed, [Vincente] stayed around for a moment after I’d dismissed the class. He waited for everyone to leave. Then he walked up to me. He’d failed again. He looked me right in my face, blinked his gigantic eyes a few times, then said, 'Mr. Serrano, I don’t think it’s fair that I failed. I try harder than everyone else. Kids who don’t work as hard as me passed. What do I do?' I didn’t have an answer. It felt like I’d been shoved out of a plane.

Serrano also agrees with what some Hollywood movies really get right- that most teachers are just downright under-appreciated.

What do you think? Read the full post here and comment with your thoughts about teachers in pop culture below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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