Friday, August 18, 2017

A Week in Hell...Err, School

This is my entry in the Workplace in Film blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini.

I graduated high school in 1980.  I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wasn't ready to go off into the sunset and find a real job.  So I caromed around the local junior college, taking courses that interested me.  Still no real plan, my choices of subjects were pretty haphazard.

Then in 1984 I went to see a movie called Teachers.  Although the comedy/drama did not always present teachers and their job in an enticing light, it still inspired me to buckle down and I proceeded to start taking courses to achieve a degree that would let me teach.  (My focus was on history, which is why you see a few historical films reviewed on my blog.  I love history.)

The ensemble cast of  teachers and students in Teachers makes for a very entertaining movie, but one that is hardly conducive to the kind of review I usually do.  I have chosen, therefore, instead to do a quick overview of the most predominant individual characters in the movie.  The running plot, besides a daily week in the life of an urban school, is that the school is being sued by a former student who graduated from the school but can't read or write.

Teachers (1984)

In no certain order, just as I decided to cover them, here are some of the major characters in the movie):

Alex Jurel (Nick Nolte):

Jurel is an idealist, and a left over from the 60's.  He believes in the kids and wants to make sure they get prepared for the real world.  He is also a threat to the system because the powers that be fear he will testify in the deposition on the court case telling the truth and exposing the system for being as faulty as it really is.  Most of his students look up to him and really respect him.  One in particular, Diane (see below), comes to him specifically in time of dire need.

Roger Rubell (Judd Hirsch):

Along with Jurel, Rubell was an idealistic teacher.  But somewhere along the line he became a realist, siding with the system, more or less to keep his status within it secure.  He is the "voice of reason", trying to convince Jurel to play ball and not buck the system.  All Rubell really wants is things to go back to normal (i.e. the dismissal of the court case; the teachers to keep doing whatever it takes to keep the status quo; etc.)

JoBeth Williams (Lisa Hammond):

Hammond was a former student at JFK, and is now an attorney on the court case representing the plaintiff.  She admits she had a "crush" on Jurel when she went there, but she is also an idealist in her own right, wanting what's the right thing to be done (changing the status quo and the system at the school).  As such, the romantic aspect of the movie becomes a bit tight as she thinks that Jurel ewill ultimately side with the system and try to prevent the case from succeeding.

Ralph Macchio (Eddie Pilikian) & Crispin Glover (Danny Reese):

Eddie and Danny are buddies, malcontents and just plain troublemakers, although Eddie, for his part has a good heart.  Danny, on the other hand, is a bit disturbed (something Glover has played well over the years).  Both Danny and Eddie create trouble within the school, but Eddie is viewed, by Jurel at least, to be salvageable, and gets transferred to Jurel's class to try to get him to be all that he really can be.  Danny's case doesn't work out so well.  He is intimidated by almost everything, and ultimately pays the toll in a very heart-wrenching scene.

Laura Dern (Diane Warren):

Warren is a student in Jurel's class.  More or less she is just there, but her case becomes significant in Jurel's life when it is revealed hat she is pregnant, having had a liaison with Mr. Troy (Art Metrano), a gym teacher.  Jurel helps her out by taking her to get an abortion at her insistence, and that later plays into Jurel's position in the system.

Allen Garfield  (Carl Rosenberg):

Rosenberg is a tormented soul.  He doesn't get the respect he thinks he deserves from his students, nor does he really want to play ball with the system.  He has some of the same idealistic tendencies as Jurel, but these are mostly for self-preservation rather than a real idealistic goal of changing the status quo.

Royal Dano  (Kenneth "Ditto" Stiles):

"Ditto", as he is known, is called "Ditto" because he hogs the copy machine (called a ditto machine, if you remember those things).  He has won awards for the most complacent class, which you have to see to really get the joke.  "Ditto" gives out tests in class and dozes behind a newspaper while the class does the tests.  He really annoys fellow teachers and the school psychologist when he does this.

Richard Mulligan  (Herbert Gower):

This is the character that really inspired me, which becomes funny when you know who he really is.  Gower is an outpatient from a mental institution who is inadvertently hired because the school thinks he is someone else, a Stuart Van Ark, a substitute teacher for a history class.  The reason why he inspired me is because he dresses up as Abraham Lincoln and General George Custer, and seems to be really inspiring to his students to being interested in history.

The school bell has sounded so that's the end of today's lesson.  Be sure to do your homework and come back to school Monday, because there will be a quiz.



  1. I have never heard of this film. It sounds quite interesting. Life is funny, isn't it? You never know where inspiration will strike.

    1. If you like ensemble cast movies, you will probably enjoy this one. You may or may not like how the court case turns out, but it is still a good movie nonetheless. Thanks for reading.

  2. First, I love that you used the word "caromed".

    Secondly, thanks for sharing your experiences with this film. That is a great story, how it inspired your studies.

    Thirdly, I'm another one who hasn't heard of this film, but I think I'd like it. I'm going to see if our library has a copy – thanks for the introduction! :)

    1. Hope you find it. Believe it or not, I found it in a discount bin at Dollar General for $2... That was the first time I had a chance to see it since I went to the theater. Which happens quite often considering the movies I like best don't turn out to be blockbusters that they rebroadcast every week on TBS.... Thanks for reading.

  3. I love hearing about movies that inspire people to change their lives! I haven't seen Teachers, but am now interested in checking it out.

    Thanks for joining in the blogathon!

    1. Its an entertaining way to pass 2 hours.... Thanks for reading. Glad you let me in on the fun of the blogathon.

  4. I have heard about this movie, but I haven't watched it yet. It's nice that it inspired you. My mother is a teacher - math teacher - but I don't believe it was a movie that inspired her career choice!

    1. This is the only movie I can recall that I saw that focused on teachers. I don't even recall what enticed me to see it in the first place, since I usually don't watch teacher movies. (No, I still haven't seen The Blackboard Jungle, a classic I know...) Thanks for reading.


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