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A Teacher's Look at the Breakfast Club

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A Teacher's Look at The Breakfast Club

     It is tough to view a movie I have seen a few dozen times with fresh eyes, and even tougher to tame it into two pages.  The Breakfast Club is known for the witty remarks and poignant moments that pepper a single yet pivotal Saturday afternoon in detention.  From a teacher's perspective, we are reminded that teaching and learning go far beyond formal instruction and the classroom.

     The hardest part about trying to consider a teacher's point of view while watching this movie is that so much of it is not meant for our eyes.  What happens when the adults are not around is almost sacred, which is supported by the way the students come to one another's aid when confronted by the authority figure, Mr. Vernon.  What I can take away from this as if I had been given a sneak peak into the lives of my students, is that in teaching you must consider the other forces at work in the lives of your students.

     We have spoken in class about the challenges in urban education, and comparing now to suburban plights, I am reminded of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  At the very basic level, students need food and shelter.  In the most impoverished neighborhoods and schools, the next meal a student will eat my be uncertain, as may be their living situation.  The next step up is safety, but again in poverty stricken areas you will find violence and crime, with parents frequently unable to relocate.  The students in the film seem to have these needs covered.  Even John, who does not bring a lunch with him, appears to be well-fed, and they all have appropriate jackets for the weather.  Additionally, judging by the knife John has on him and the flare gun that was discovered in Brian's locker, it stands to reason that there are not many security measures in place to detect weapons because the school probably sees no threat to safety.  

     The next level is less basic but still fundamental and includes love and belonging.  This may be the most relevant set of needs that the students in the film are struggling with.  While each of them appears to be very different from one another, they long for same positive attention from parents and the same sense of fitting in at school.  Unfortunately, that need to belong often pegs them against one another as cliques form and social roles are assumed.  I suppose it feels more like belonging when you can look around and can compare yourself to someone who stands out or is alone.  The significance in recognizing the deficit in love and belonging is that a teacher has to find a way to address it in order for students to learn.  Just as a hungry or cold child can be distracted from their studies, one who is denied comfort, friendship, family or intimacy may be as well.

     Beyond love and belonging lies the need for self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect.  In terms of teacher involvement in combating the social and family issues these students face, the most power a teacher has may lie in the ability to address these needs.  Students with a positive attitude about themselves and others will find more success in all aspects of school, the trick is to make them believe this as truth.  One of the lessons the film provides is the importance of collaboration among students, to help build relationships among students and cultivate the respect and confidence needed to satisfy this level of Maslow's hierarchy.

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