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Teachers In Talkies | Matilda

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Films are a great place to find examples of great (and not-so-great) teachers. Our multi-part series kicks off with a look at the 1996 children's classic, Matilda.

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It was released as a film over 20 years ago, with the book initially published ten years prior to this — but Matilda is still very much a household name and can be vividly recalled by most. Based on a supernaturally gifted young girl, the film shows us what might happen to a child who is essentially too clever to need to go to school — at least with students of the same age. It explores two very different approaches for teachers working with particularly gifted students.

Roald Dahl’s starkly contrasted pair of teachers (antagonist Miss Trunchbull and co-protagonist Miss Honey) may seem caricatured to some, but they actually provide a great starting point for this topic. Step 1 for schools looking to ensure their Gifted and Talented provision is Ofsted compliant? Watch Matilda — there are plenty of lessons to be learned!

The Trunchbull discourages learning if it seems remotely enjoyable. She terrorises the class whenever she takes a lesson by throwing pop quizzes with questions that are way too advanced for the students and by punishing those who inevitably answer incorrectly — obviously discouraging them by making them feel stupid, and consequentially chipping away at their confidence. Agatha Trunchbull — that whip-cracking, hair-swinging, “Chokey” prison guard — is the epitome of how NOT to pass a Titanium Tutors interview, talk the less of a DBS check.

Instead of recognising Matilda’s talent, the Trunchbull develops an inexplicable hatred for the most gifted child in the school and refuses to allow her to work with students at a similar level to her, likely out of spite or even envy! It goes without saying that despising your gifted student won’t help with keeping their mind stimulated, nor will keeping them away from their peers.

The film also explores the role that parents play in supporting a particularly gifted child: we find Matilda trapped in a paradoxical situation when we see that her mother and father are portrayed as willingly uneducated, and that their apathetic son is their idea of the perfect child.

Miss Honey, on the other hand, notices immediately that Matilda’s intelligence surpasses those in her class so, with the knowledge that Matilda will not be allowed to move to a more advanced class, she brings the more advanced material to Matilda. This is a great example of a teacher going above and beyond without actually having to do much more than using their initiative. Without neglecting the needs of her other students, Miss Honey endeavours to help Matilda to learn something new every day.

Most would agree that it’s simply not enough to give your smart student a tricky textbook, but Miss Honey does so much more than that. She is Matilda’s saving grace, rescuing her from her dull-minded family and giving her the freedom to explore books, something she hadn’t been permitted to do before. Miss Honey deeply cares about her students’ well-being and success. She helps to identify and remove the numerous obstacles that had once hindered Matilda’s gift from blooming.

In the real world, things are not as simple and as neat. The teaching profession doesn't divide straight-forwardly into Trunchbulls and Miss Honeys. But we are all, to an extent, Matildas — we may not all be as gifted as her, but everyone encounters obstacles to their learning at some point or other. At times like that, a little inspiration, empathy and dedication from a caring teacher or tutor can go a long way in reigniting our passion and putting us back on track to achieve our goals.

Are you in need of a Miss-Honey-style confidence boost? No problemo! Just get in touch. On the other hand, if it's Trunchbull's teaching approach you're after, sorry — we don't do that.

Liked this post? You may enjoy the next one in the series, Teachers in Talkies — Dead Poets Society.

Blog Post Crafted by Leticia

Leticia runs our Admin Team, supporting tutors, clients and applicants. She loves singing and will almost always be seen making a beeline for the microphone at any karaoke night!

Leticia manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is also responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors.


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