Lou Anne Johnson is a pop culture teacher played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie Dangerous Minds. Dangerous Minds was definitely a Hollywood movie, but still had some important character ideas serving relevance to what 21st century educators should still resemble today. The premise of the movie depicts that inner city schools often have students who are behind, (not exclusively, but primarily minorities), but with true passion, understanding, compassionate effort, these students can rise to astonishing levels of success. “Passion and motivation is the fuel that propels the human spirit and this is at the core of student achievement” (Balls, Eury, & King, 2011).
Witnessed throughout the movie are several instructional strategies for promoting student motivation. The teacher begins the class by informing all students that they are starting with an A; all they have to do is try to keep it. In the book, Tools for Teaching, Barbara Davis, would support this motivational method because of her belief of de-emphasizing grades and promoting learning for learning’s sake. One of her motivational strategies states, “Ensure opportunities for students’ by assigning tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult.” It is evident in the movie that the students could care less what the teacher knows until they are certain she cares about them. Not only is the teacher extremely patient while waiting to earn the respect of her students, but also maintains a positive and determined attitude toward them.
The teacher’s role as an educator can compare directly to the philosophical aspects of behaviorism. According to the behaviorist, teachers have many rewards or other incentives prepared and ready when the need for motivating students to do the required task (Ozmon, 2012). Critics often consider it undesirable for children to receive extrinsic rewards for things they should do anyway, but the teacher left without other options for motivation, chose the best philosophy to work with this set of students who had already given up the will to pass after their acceptance to failure. Johnson decides to challenge the curriculum when teaching a unit on poetry by motivating students with a reward of going a field trip at no cost to students. She continually handed out prizes to students as incentives for completing assignments, including a free dinner to the winners of a poetry contest. Over time, Johnson not only engages all of her students in the learning process, but also earns their respect. Such respect allows Johnson to respond differently to the following question after assigning students a new project, “What prize do we get this time?” She smiles and responds confidently, “You get the prize of learning… you get to think… exercise the mind” (Dangerous Minds, 1995).
Lou Anne Johnson is a pop culture teacher who should earn the rating of a high quality teacher. High quality teachers are those who have content knowledge, the ability to engage...