Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everything I Ever Learned About Education, I Learned From Watching "Stand By Me"

Stand by Me is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has an amazing cast that make a great story even better.

I stumbled upon the movie last night about halfway through and stopped to finish. Even though I was tired, I had to watch. Gordon was just finishing up the "pie eating contest" story. As a young kid, that was my favorite part. It had a "barf-o-rama" in it. As a young kid, that made any movie an instant classic. However, it was the scene that follows that really hit me hard for some reason last night.

Here is the quote from the movie,

Gordie:Maybe you could come into the college courses with me.
Chris:Yeah right, that'll be the day.
Gordie:Why not? You're smart enough.
Chris:They won't let me.
Gordie:What do you mean?
Chris:It's what everyone thinks of my family in this town. It's what they think of me. I'm just one of those low-life Chambers kids.
Gordie:That's not true.
Chris:Oh wait, it is. No one even asked me if I took the milk money that time. I just got a three day vacation.
Gordie:Did you take it?
Chris:Yeah, I took it! I mean, you knew I took it. Teddy knew I took it. Everyone knew I took it. Even Vern knew it, I think. But maybe I was sorry and I tried to give it back.
Gordie:You tried to give it back?
Chris:Maybe. Just maybe. And maybe I took it to Old Lady Simmons and told her, and the money was all there. But I still got a three day vacation because it never showed up. And maybe the next week, Old Lady Simmons had this new suit on when she came to school.
Gordie:Yeah, yeah! It was brown and it had dots on it.
Chris:Yeah. So let's just say that I stole the milk money, but Old Lady Simmons stole it back from me. Just say that I told this story. Me, Chris Chambers. Kid brother to Eyeball Chambers. Do you think that anyone would've believed it?
Chris:And do you think that that bitch would have dared try something like that if it had been one of those douchebags from up on the view, if they had taken the money?
Gordie:No way!
Chris:Hell no! But with me?... I'm sure she had her eye on that skirt for a long time. Anyway, she saw her chance, and she took it. I was the stupid one for even trying to give it back.
[begins to cry]
Chris:I just never thought a teacher... Oh, who gives a fuck anyway? I just wish... that I could go some place... where nobody knows me. I guess I'm just a pussy, huh?
Gordie:[comforting] No way. No way.

Quote from

I was truly moved by this scene. There are a couple of things that I take away from this movie. 
How many times have you heard a teacher assume the worst about a student because of who their older sibling happened to be?  I can honestly say I have done it in the past and have been much better as I have gotten older. I used to hate following my older brother in school. He was the smart Math and Science guy and I was the English and Social Studies guy. Besides our subject strengths, we are just very different brothers. Those are things that should be embraced. 

Expectations are a running theme in the movie. Gordon has these expectations placed on him with the death of his all-star brother. His parents were downright terrible to him. His brother was the only one that encouraged Gordon to be Gordon. The dream sequence Gordon has before the above quote takes place has Gordon's Dad saying it should have been Gordon who died. This sadness and feeling of inadequacy are things that many young adults feel and this movie nails it. 

On the other side of the tracks, you have the Chambers family. Eyeball Chambers is a local thug who had developed a nasty reputation. His younger brother Chris is a good kid trying to deal with the bad reputation. The quote above is heart breaking. He did take the money, but tried to give it back. We are led to believe that the teacher pocketed the money and bought a new skirt Chris' quote, "I just never thought a teacher..."is the part that hit my heart. 

I think some teachers truly forget the impact they can have on a student. It might seem corny, but a teacher can still be that beacon of hope in a very dark life a student has to live. Chris is devastated at the fact that a teacher could be possible of something horrible like this. Stealing money from a kid is horrible, but is it any worse than assuming a student is dumb or bad? 

Showing no faith or confidence in a kid is worse in my opinion. Gordon was the only person that believed in Chris. Chris fought his way out of poverty and a bad family reputation to become a lawyer. His death is tragic. 

The next time you have a student who might have a reputation, do your best to bury it and get to know who the real person is. You just might be the one person they look up to and that could be the difference between another lost soul or a future lawyer. 


  1. Your comments are spot on as always. I asked my students to fill out a quick survey after the first day and one girl wrote "I am not really good in science and math, but if you give me a chance I really am a hard worker." How many of her teachers have written her off because of the grades she has earned on a few tests? What really scares me is this girl believes it about herself. We haven't even touched a science concept and she already thinks she can't do it. Breaks my heart sometimes.

  2. This was an excellent post. The quote is heartrending and so many teachers forget how important our opinions are to the students we teach. It is important to remember that all kids (even the college students I teach) want to be valued for who they are. Thanks for making me remember this.

    Laurie Fowler

  3. I really liked your thoughts on this movie - I'll have to see if I can find it to watch. It might have been nice to pass these sentiments on at a staff meeting recently, when teachers all groaned at the return of a student after 12 months at another school. He was just 12 when he left, and said some disappointing things about the school. But I hope he get's a fresh start. That's one thing I love about teaching - you can all get a fresh start each term and reinvent yourself each year.

  4. This is one of my favorite movies as well, but I didn't remember this part. Thanks for sharing and keeping me aware of what my thoughts are about students prior to meeting them.

  5. Thank you for posting this... it's one of my favorites, and I haven't seen it for ages. Such a powerful scene. It reminds me of my latest book obsession, Okay For Now, by Gary D. Schmidt... some of the same lessons in that book. I highly recommend it!


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