When I was in 8th and 9th grade, I was obsessed with the movie Lean on Me. I was so inspired by the story of Principal Joe Clark and the crazy tough-love tactics he used to turn around his New Jersey high school. After my grandpa met Clark I even hung the autographed movie poster he brought me on my bedroom wall. I’m watching the movie again after a number of years and am wondering if a seed wasn’t planted in the back of my brain, way back then, that eventually led me down the path to becoming a teacher. Although I teach at a school of relative privilege, my students face many of the same challenges as those in the movie — drugs, violence, teen pregnancy — and if I can do just the tiniest bit to steer them in the right direction, I suppose I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And maybe Principal Clark would be proud.
Here’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, featuring ’90s R&B group Riff: