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To Sir, With Love | Teaching Evaluation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Teaching
Wordcount: 2073 words Published: 18th May 2020

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For this assignment the film that I picked to watch is “To Sir, With Love.” During my 19 years teaching to date I have worked in two DEIS schools and I wanted to study a film that was relevant to my setting. American Mr. Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) recently received his degree in engineering, but cannot find work in his chosen profession. As a means to make ends meat he takes a job in a rough London East End school populated mostly with other troublemakers who were rejected from other schools for their behaviour. While the students at first see Thackeray as just another teacher open for ridicule and bullying, his calm demeanor and desire to see them succeed gradually earn him their respect. The children in his care deal with a number of major issues for including racism, self- identity and they come from very poor families. In turn, it is difficult for the children to learn and function at school. His students appear disengaged and are not fully accessing the curriculum. He found a way to get students “to float to the mark he set. His children were bobbing in pretty shallow water” when he met them.(Rose, 1989) Thackeray’s approaches to teaching change throughout the film moving from executive to facilitator to liberationist. Looking overall at the film, I feel the main approach used is liberationist and I will show examples of this.

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Thackeray was himself a well-educated man that ended up teaching by chance. He comes into a classroom that is in crisis, with no control or learning taking place. The students in his care have no boundaries and he is warned by other teachers about what he is letting himself in for. In 1967 in London corporal punishment would have been the norm but wasn’t allowed in North QuaySchool. At the beginning Thackeray uses an executive approach as he tries in vain to control the class. He is good at making lessons interesting and relevant to his students but can’t hold their focus and he doesn’t know enough about their home lives. In a very tense exchange Thackeray loses control and in nasty to his students. On reflection he decides to change his approach and decides to treat his students with more respect. He gets rid of the class books and decides on getting the children ready for life once they graduate. Respect is demanded by him and the students must respect each other starting by using real names and not nicknames. I can relate to this in my own classroom as I have had to ban the slang name “sham” as is widely used in the community I teach in. Our class motto is “Give respect-Get respect.”

Thackeray invites the children to question and ask their teacher anything they like and he answers all questions in a frank, honest and open manner treating his students with respect. In a symbiotic relationship he begins to learn about his students out of school lives and their social backgrounds, as he teaches them while all the time maintaining discipline. He empathises with his students and the real business of a school begins to happen-learning. His students now want to learn and in turn behaviour dramatically improves and the children begin to respect Mr. Thackeray and each other. He accepts Piaget’s view of how individuals build private understandings of reality through problem solving with others. (Scheurman, 1998)

Even though his main teaching approach is liberationist it is clear at the start of the film Thackeray uses an executive approach. He focuses on the children’s learning needs and he links his lessons with real life situations relating to his students. Like any good teacher he had a deep understanding of his curriculum and delivers his lessons very well but this executive approach doesn’t gain rewards as he is ignorant of his students outside of school lives and their social backgrounds. He begins to seek information on their home lives and backgrounds from other teachers and looks at their relationships in class and educates himself on where these children are living and growing up in the East End of London. Through this self-education of his children’s personal lives and social backgrounds he gains a deep understanding of the challenges the children in his care face and can now start to appreciate where they are at in terms of being actually able to learn. In the film when this happens we can clearly see a shift to a liberationist educator who has less focus on just delivering a curriculum and he starts to focus more on preparing the children to be able to think for themselves practically about the real world once they graduate from school. Now his approach is to take into account the daily lives of his students as a basis for his teaching. He understands that children from a working class background need to be considered differently from those who are economically more advantaged. Many of them have to work after school and are trapped in difficult situations at home, and he realizes that if he is to gets through to them he has to attempt to relate the lessons at their level and where they are coming from. Thackeray at all times leads by example and shows the children the behavior he expects. Respect is at the centre of everything that happens in his classroom from calling him by his proper name and by referring to each other by their surnames and proper titles. Everyone now has a new found value of themselves as human beings and they have more respect for each other and indeed for their teachers. He leads them on a journey of finding an increased self-worth and a higher moral compass. He shows a clear liberationist approach in the way he models the behavior he expects from his students. Thackeray is similar to the example of Roberto Umbras in our reading on The Model Maker where his classes “are an island of calm in a sea of trouble”(Fenstermacher and Soltis,2004)

Thackeray decides to change his approach to teaching the curriculum using no textbooks. He has altered his own pedagogical approach and this is indeed further evidence of his liberationist approach. He gives the children an ownership of their own curriculum and are allowed an element of exploration as they can ask their teacher relevant questions to their own lives and the world around them. There is no boundary to the questions they may ask and he will educate them on anything they may ask and indeed the students ask him a wide range of questions from birth to death. He is open with his students and answers every question thrown at him and shows his skill by making his answers relevant to their education. He indeed shows his own life experience by often referring to his own life in his answers as well as referring to current normal life material including current music bands, news items, fashion and popular current reading material including top magazines. He includes all children in his classroom and has an impact on each and every student in his care. He gives the students a toolbox full of tools that will be relevant to their own lives and his honesty with them is refreshing for them and creates a sense of mutual respect and trust. He then brings them on tours of exploration outside of the four walls of their school and opens their eyes to learning opportunities elsewhere. He constantly praises their efforts to learn and question their teachers and this feeds their desire to keep learning. He encourages them to look outside the box and raises their own personal sense of well-being while all the time increasing the value of the other people they come into contact with in their own lives. He brings them to a new level of understanding and learning and clearly shows a liberationist approach. I quite enjoyed this project and the MAKER Model is an excellent resource to look at the teaching approaches used by the main character. It is clear there was a mixture of all three approaches in his teaching and the facilitator/nurturer approach became quite evident where he fostered a new self-belief in the value of themselves as human beings. For all of us as educators we need to use a mix of all three approaches and this will change each year as we meet a new set of students. In order to maximize the potential of each student in my care I will need to plan and decide which approach to use depending on each class that sits in front of me. Planning for this is imperative as each and every group of children are different with different needs and backgrounds Overall his approach is liberationist and this is clearly evident in the relationships he formed with his children in his care at North Quay Secondary school. The turning point of Thackeray’s approach to teaching came when he learned from his own mistakes as an educator and learned how to change his approach to teaching the children in front of him. The children in turn reacted in a positive manner to his change of approach and a fantastic relationship built up between teacher and student. He led by example and didn’t expect anything from his students that he wasn’t willing to do himself. I have learned how to approach a challenging child/class in a whole new light from this film review while all the while realizing that a mixture of all three approaches in the MAKER Model is necessary in order to become a more effective and inspiring teacher, or indeed a leader in a school setting. I would hope like Thackeray that I travel the journey of learning with my class from one approach to another and ultimately understand that this transition from one to the other needs to be fluid and interchangeable.

Time of film where we can see the three approaches.



Awareness of

Knowledge of the content

purposes/aims of
teaching &

teacher and



At start of film








From 25.45 on.

25.45  47.44   51.10  73.30




20.30  75.31





Main Type

26.11 37.14        47.20  56.10

63.00  66.05


32.14   46.51


29.15   30.25

30.25   59.15

79.30   80.05

26.30   28.00

29.15   36.38.

40.02   41.08

43.50  70.00 


  • Rose, M. (1989). Lives on the Boundary. I just Wanna Be Average. Pg 1
  • Scheurman,G (1998) Social Studies 62, 6-9 January. From Behaviorist to Constructivist Teaching.
  • Fenstermacher, G. D., & Soltis, J. F. (2004). Using MAKER with the Approaches. In G. D. Fenstermacher, & J. F. Soltis, Approaches to Teaching (pp. 1-10). NY: Teachers College Press.



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