Search form

The Pedagogy of

Not so long ago, in a classroom not so far away…

This month marks the release of the new installation of the Star Wars film series: Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story. It’s the story of Jyn Erso and her motley crew of rebellious souls, working together to overcome huge odds.  For those in the education world, this sort of story is all too familiar. Spanning generations as this epic does, much of the story of Star Wars relies upon the wisdom of learned elders, passing on essential skills and timeless knowledge to the younger generation. Preparing them for an uncertain future. Teaching them to capitalize upon their strengths. Helping them to own, understand, and build upon their limitations.

Whatever your Death Star, we can all relate to both the feelings of urgency and hope for a looming and sometimes frightening future. Believing in the strength and sense of justice in our students. Helping them make sense of an ever-changing universe. Encouraging them to reach far beyond the horizons of the skies they know. Dreaming that the tiniest seeds of wisdom we’ve shared will one day grow in the soils at the farthest reaches of the galaxy. The sages of Star Wars know about teaching…and you don’t have to be a Jedi to appreciate these hidden pedagogical gems.

Your focus determines your reality.

-Qui-Gon Jinn

As an educator, it is extremely easy to get mired in what is not working in the classroom: the handful of students still struggling, the lesson that did not go perfectly, or the engagement you were hoping would be there, and just…wasn’t. Although being mindful and reflective of our challenges in the classroom helps us to continually improve, if our attention is set solely upon the catastrophes, we will get discouraged and burnt out quickly. To be truly effective long-term, we need to be equally aware of our successes. Our ability to focus upon the truths of our classrooms – both disastrous and virtuous – allows us to bear witness to the messiness of education and bring honest learning into fruition.

Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.

-Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan knew all too well the challenges of the classroom. He knew to pay close attention to the needs of the individual learner – to see each student holistically. Your students are so much more than what your eyes present to you. They might act like the model student. They might act like a trouble-maker. But that is not all they are. What is home like? What are their passions? What are their hopes? What are their fears? What academic data has been collected? What is their culture? These things might not be clear at first glance, but are absolutely essential to helping each student reach their definition of success. Use your eyes, ears, mind, and heart to hear and maybe begin to understand those in your classroom.

All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.


All too often, we get stuck staring at the horizons – much like young Luke, growing up on Tatooine. Our minds worry about our students’ futures: the benchmark testing next month, the SAT/ACT next year, the upcoming college admission process, and career preparedness. What can we do to improve those scores? What can we do to be sure they’re ready for the working world? What we sometimes fail to remember is that each year starts with a single day; each day with a single minute. One day – sure – they may annihilate that test and land their dream career. But we need to focus on today: right here, and right now. If we do our jobs well today, the rest will fall into place for our students. Do not be overwhelmed by the mountain before you. Just start climbing.

movies film sports star wars features

Difficult to see.  Always in motion is the future.


Star Wars might have occurred a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but Yoda’s awareness of the nature of the future is apt to this day. The truth is, we don’t exactly know what we are preparing our students for. How frightening! We have no idea what new marvels of technology or ways of life will come into play, ten or twenty years from now. Which skills will be invaluable? Will any fall away? What content will help our students best cope with and understand their new world? This is the reality of our work. Embrace it. Equip them with the critical thinking, problem-solving, and ability to adapt to an ever-changing world, and they will become more powerful than you could ever imagine.

star wars harrison ford han solo c3po never tell me the odds

Never tell me the odds.

-Han Solo

Han Solo’s lack of interest in the odds might not match the seeming reality of the world around him, however time and time again, he beat those odds. We collect a lot of data in the classroom, as data-driven decision making is at the forefront of curricula across the world. This data is an important part of understanding our students, but we should not let it determine our student’s academic future or ability. There is simply no harm in reaching for the stars with of your young padawans. They’ll surely surprise you every time.

Luke:  I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.

Yoda:  You will be.

Confidence can be helpful in boosting our own vigor around a particular unit or lesson. It can also help to lift morale in a learning community. Just don’t forget that it’s not always going to go perfectly.  Education is messy. And we, like all human beings, have flaws. It’s going to be scary sometimes, but guess what? It means that you care. Your anxiety and insecurity and fear all mean that you care enough that you demand the very best for your students. Yoda would approve.

Star Wars movies movie trap its a trap

It’s a trap!

-Admiral Ackbar

We’re sure that had Admiral Ackbar known of the Empire’s rouse well before their attack on the Death Star, he would have taken measures against being taken advantage of. And we, as educators, need to do the very same. Pay close attention to the balance between give and take in your school. Are your building responsibilities increasing each year? Are you feeling drained after each day? Are you working harder than your students? Any of these things could suggest a trap. You need to make sure you are balanced in your teaching day, because if you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of others?

daisy ridley

I know how to run without you holding my hand.


The balance between helping and enabling is a tough balance to strike, as Finn learns in The Force Awakens. Support your students, but also be ready to recognize the moment when they are ready to do it all by themselves. It’s okay if they fall; this is how they will learn. Even the great Jedi Luke Skywalker was challenged again and again. Sometimes having patience. Sometimes not. However, his teacher, Master Yoda was always there to encourage him to get up, dust himself off, and try it all again.

Always pass on what you have learned.


Yoda knew the value of a more traditional education, but he also knew all too well the value of hard experience. Do not forget that your content area is not all you are equipped to teach students about life.  You have a long history behind you, and that experience can really help students to understand the function of a good education. Tell them about your adventure. Share with them your own questions about life and our world. Share your struggles, and what you learned from them. All of this helps to take learning off of the page and into the greater universe.

This is a new day. A new beginning.

-Ahsoka Tano

No matter what happened today, students need to know that you will still be there for them tomorrow. They are at the point in their lives where they are going to screw up. They are going to make poor or difficult decisions, and they are going to need to know that you are going to support them anyway. You are a part of their foundation. Every day is a new day for both you and your students. A new chance to try again. To learn and grow. To bring balance to our lives, our communities, the world, and the cosmos. A new hope.

Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor

Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher in Connecticut.

All images courtesy of Disney.