Teachers of the world, we salute you!

Films

There’s no denying it – teachers are some of the most influential people in our lives. And when it comes to our kids, there’s rarely anyone who spends more time with them then their teachers. We all know and appreciate the value of a good education, but how often do we take the time to celebrate those who supply it?

Most of us can say we’ve had some good teachers during our academic career, but some of us can say we’ve had truly exceptional teachers. Those are the ones who leave a mark, who stay with you long after you’ve left school. Getting one of those? That’s a gift you cannot put a price on.

Thursday, October 5 is World Teachers’ Day. To celebrate, we’ve put together 5 films on teachers, the important job they do, and how they impact our lives. Enjoy, and maybe share them with the educators in your life.

Sir! Sir!

This 20-minute short by Michael Rubbo depicts what happens when teachers and students switch roles for a day. It’s a masterpiece in that it acts as the film equivalent of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. We can have all the World Teacher Days and Teacher Appreciation events we want, but nothing gives you a better understanding of how hard a teacher works than getting your hands dirty and being one yourself. Honestly? About halfway through the film, I thought the poor kid was going to have a nervous breakdown.

Sir! Sir! is bound to be a treat for every teacher out there.

Sir! Sir!, Michael Rubbo, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Mr. Mergler’s Gift

This beautiful little film by Beverly Shaffer shows us what can evolve out of a chance meeting between someone at the beginning of their life, and someone at the end. It’s also a wonderful illustration of the relationship that can develop between a teacher and their student. There are some teachers who have so much to give, so while the film claims to be the story of Xin Ben, it’s really a touching portrait of Daniel Mergler.

Mr. Mergler's Gift, Beverly Shaffer, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

No Apple for Johnny

This animated short from the inimitable John Weldon relates the year in his life when he attended teaching college and consequently opted to become a filmmaker. Granted, for a post that’s supposed to be celebrating the work of educators, this film might be a little harsh and uncomplimentary towards the profession. But that’s only on the surface. Beneath Weldon’s misery and – let’s face it – funny anecdotes (there’s a guy smoking a joint in the final exam), lies the message that teaching is hard, and is most certainly not a job for everyone. And for this reason, it’s extra important to recognize the hard work teachers do.

No Apple for Johnny, John Weldon, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Kindergarten

Spend a day in kindergarten, circa 1962, with this cinema verité-style film by Guy L. Coté. Your first challenge is not to die from the cute, because oh my god are these kids cute. But once you get beyond that, you really understand how important kindergarten is, and how much more important the kindergarten teacher is. This is the first teacher your kids will have, the one who has the power to shape the way they see school. It’s a mighty power to wield, and thankfully this teacher understands that.

Kindergarten, Guy L. Coté, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Professor Norman Cornette: Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?

This documentary by master filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin marks a departure from her usual subject of the Indigenous community to celebrate one man and question the controversy that surrounded him. Most of us have had that one special teacher who has played a significant role in their lives, someone with whom they credit part of their success, or the way they approach life. Face it – teachers, when they’re great, are nothing short of inspirational. In many of these cases, the teacher in question has used unconventional means to stir or provoke their students. The case of McGill’s Professor Norman Cornett is exactly that. Anyone who has been such a teacher, or has had one like him, should watch this film.

Professor Norman Cornett: 'Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?', Alanis Obomsawin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada