UPDATE x5 PLEASE READ (& consider rec'cing) my follow-up diary about my high school calculus teacher, Mr. Koehler as well; I posted a tale about him at the end of this diary but decided that his story deserves it's own diary. Feel free to post tributes to your own favorite teachers there if you like...
Trust me, just watch this...especially the ending:
(transcript below the fold, but try to watch the video first; it's infinitely better to watch than to read)
Smug ReasonTV interviewer: “In acting, there isn’t any job security, right? There’s an incentive to work hard, to be a better actor, because you want to have a job...so why isn’t it like that for teachers?”
Matt Damon (w/his mother, a teacher, standing by his side): “You think job insecurity is what makes me work hard?”
Interviewer: “Well, there’s an incentive to work harder, but if there’s job security...”
Damon: “I want to be an actor. It’s not an incentive. That’s the thing. See, take this MBA-style thinking, right? It’s the problem with Ed policy right now. There’s this intrinsically paternalistic view of problems that are much more complex than that. It’s like saying a teacher is gonna get lazy when they have tenure. A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary, and really long hours, and...and do that job...unless you really loved to do it?”
(cut to clip from Good Will Hunting...great flick, and I understand why they added it, but I didn’t think it was necessary)
Cameraman: “Aren’t 10 percent bad, though? 10% of teachers are bad...”
Damon’s Mom: “Where did you get that number?”
Cameraman: “I don’t know...10% of people in any profession maybe should think of something else.”
Damon: “Well, OK, but I mean, maybe you’re a shitty cameraman! I don’t know...”
Bonus: Just for the hell of it, here's the amazing NSA job interview scene from Good Will Hunting:
Update: For some context, the interview clip is from this past weekends' SOS (Save Our Schools) rally in D.C.
"I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.
"I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to Kindergarten through my senior year in high school I went to Public Schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.
"I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself— my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity— all come from how I was parented and taught.
"And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned— none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success— none of these qualities that make me who I am… can be tested.
"I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep— this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.
"Now, don’t get me wrong, I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, “My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.”
"I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.
"I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based not on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the “right” bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.
"I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here, I do know that.
"This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: as I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.
"So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “over-paid”; the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything…
"Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you, and we will always have your back."
Update x2: As long as this is on the Rec list and Good Will Hunting is on the table, here's some interesting background on the script--which was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, for those who may have forgotten (they won best screenplay, in fact, you may recall). A bit of irony that Ben Affleck's film The Town was used by the GOP to rally support for their shitty debt ceiling bill, but that's a different story:
—Ben Affleck and Matt Damon originally wrote the screenplay as a thriller: Young man in the rough-and-tumble streets of South Boston, who possesses a superior intelligence, is targeted by the FBI to become a G-Man
—Rob Reiner later urged them to drop the thriller aspect of the story and to focus the relationship between Will Hunting (Damon) and his psychologist (Williams).
—Legendary screenwriter William Goldman was rumored to have helped with the script, but insists that his only contribution was reviewing the script and agreeing with a few comments that Rob Reiner had already made. He writes, "I think the reason the world was so anxious to believe Matt Damon and Ben Affleck didn't write their script was simple jealousy. They were young and cute and famous; kill the fuckers."
—Studios originally wanted Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to star since Damon/Affleck weren’t established stars yet
—Kevin Smith convinced Miramax to produce the script
—Smith, Michael Mann, Steven Soderbergh and...Mel Gibson, of all people, were considered for directing the film before they settled on Gus Van Sant (I could see Soderbergh or Smith easily, but Mann or Gibson seem unlikely)
Update x3: Here's another Damon classic clip, about Sarah Palin:
Update x4: Whoops! Someone pointed out that I misspelled ROFLMAO in my title. Fixed, although since it's an acronym, how do you know that I didn't mean it to read: "Rolling on the Laugh, Flooring!"?? Huh? Huh? ;)
Update x5: The ongoing discussion in the comments below about the veracity of the actual higher math problems depicted in Good Will Hunting inspired me to add my own Favorite Teacher story:
Back in 1988, I was a senior in high school, and studying calculus for my A.P. Calc test. This just happened to be the same time that the movie Stand and Deliver, about the real-world math teacher Jaime Escalante, came out.
My calculus teacher, was incredibly excited about doing something almost unheard of for a math teacher: He arranged for a field trip to the local theater to watch the movie, to help inspire us for the AP test.
You can't imagine how geeked he was; I mean, how often are movies made about math teachers?
Anyway, not only did he take us to see the film, but he even offered extra credit for the first student who shouted out the correct answer to any calculus problem depicted in the movie. Fortunately, it was a Wednesday matinee during school hours, so our class was pretty much the only people in the theater.
It was a great film, and Mr. Koehler was a fantastic teacher.
Oh, and I got a 4 (out of 5) on the AP Calculus test, which I think gained me like 10 undergrad credit hours (at around $45/credit back then).