Updated: Aug 5
Released in 1986, this film (and the not-so-great teaching depicted in it) is the subject of Part 3 of our series about teachers in famous movies.
You might be wondering why I’ve decided to talk about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in a series dedicated to teaching highlights in cinema. After all, wasn’t Ferris all about bunking off school rather than actually learning anything? And wasn’t the most famous scene from Ferris Bueller a rather fantastical, fully choreographed parade through downtown Chicago, with Ferris lip-syncing to a classic Beatles number while his dad looks down, clueless, from an office in a skyscraper?
Yes, both are true. There also certainly aren’t any inspirational speeches, quotes or interventions from teachers, and at the end of the day it’s questionable whether Ferris really changes his ways or sees the merit in his high school education. But what Ferris Bueller offers us is a chance to delve into the DON’Ts of teaching, tutoring, and generally inspiring teenagers. So stay tuned for some teaching lowlights, and how to avoid them!
First, we need to think about who Ferris Bueller is, and why he is so uninspired by high school education. Ferris is fun-loving: he wants to enjoy life and see the world, especially on the kind of beautiful summer’s day during which the film is set. Ferris would benefit from interactive, engaging lessons from teachers who know how to make classes interesting.
By contrast, his lessons are incredibly dull, and when we are given a glimpse into his senior-year Economics class you can start to see why Ferris really doesn’t want to go to school: his teacher, who talks in a monotonous droning voice, gives lectures rather than interactive and involving classes. In one of the most hilarious scenes from the film (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyyAh2lQXF8), we’re given a glimpse at the effects of Ferris’s awful Economics teacher’s dry lessons: students are asleep, distracted, and some of them even look a little enraged! Considering they are the pupils who could be bothered to turn up, you can only imagine how Ferris would have reacted…
In order to inspire his pupils, Ferris’s Economics tutor could really apply the following things to his lessons:
· Engage with your students! Ask them questions, ask their opinion, and get them involved in the lesson! While he does ask questions, he doesn’t give anyone time to answer them before he answers himself. Actively making an effort to bring the student into the lesson is integral to a good class, and it’s something this teacher really needs to employ!
· Make your lesson relevant, especially if the topic is dry! It’s not just about what Voodoo economics is, it’s about how Voodoo economics affected the lives of normal people. If pupils understand how the topic relates to the world around them, then not only is it easier for them to understand, it’s more interesting to them personally.
· Liven it up a little! Nobody likes a droner, and this particular teacher certainly charts highly on the list of most boring teachers of all time. No one’s asking for you to replace your lesson with a song-and-dance number, but a touch of pizzazz certainly never hurt anyone.
Outside of Ferris’s Economics lessons, things don’t get much better. The school is led by principal Edward R. Rooney, a neurotic and self-conscious headmaster who seems more preoccupied with asserting himself as the boss than caring for his students. He has a particular issue with Ferris, who he feels undermines him in front of the student population, and he suspects that Ferris’s excuse for being off school is bogus.
To be fair to Mr. Rooney, he’s not wrong — Ferris isn’t sick at all, he’s spending the day dancing on parade floats, admiring priceless works of art at the Art Institute of Chicago, and posing as a famous culinary genius at a fancy restaurant. So maybe Mr. Rooney has reason to be suspicious… But at least one of the issues getting in the way of the pair getting on together is that he doesn’t try to show Ferris the wonders of education! He’s far more concerned with exposing Ferris as a fraud than showing how beneficial school can be. His lack of empathy and care only serves to justify Ferris’s preconceptions about high school, and his quest to vilify him pushes Ferris further and further away from coming to an understanding with Mr. Rooney.
I think that empathy, understanding, and a passion about education are key to healthy relationships between students and teachers — especially for students who are disengaged or otherwise struggling. Who knows, maybe if Mr. Rooney stopped trying to embarrass Ferris in front of the entire school, and had a frank talk with him as a mentor instead, he’d be able to win him over…
Having said all of this, and despite the failings of Ferris’s teachers, there’s still no excuse for skipping school! High school qualifications are essential if you want to go to uni, start an apprenticeship or find the job of your choice. So all of you students out there, make sure to get up bright and early and ready to face the day at school. Who knows, maybe one sunny summer’s day your teacher will allow for a class to happen outside?
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy the previous post in this series, Teachers In Talkies — Dead Poets Society.
Blog Post Crafted by Madeleine
Madeleine helps to run our Admin Team. Despite the fact that she read Japanese at university, Madeleine’s main passion in life is opera and she hopes to become the next Maria Callas some day...
Madeleine manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors.