I have no idea how many times I have seen Dead Poet’s Society, but every time I do I get tears in my eyes when the students stand on their desks and say “O Captain! My Captain!” to honor Mr. Keating when he is being forced to leave his teaching job because he taught students how to think and not simply how to conform. Ironically and sadly, this movie also deals with suicide.
Mr. Keating inspired in me the type of teacher I wanted to become. He taught me that teaching literature is opening a window to the soul rather than explaining words on a page. He taught me that literature is best learned by incorporating it into life rather than having your head buried in a textbook. He taught me that literature is relevant to every generation; a great teacher can unlock these timeless themes to his or her class. He taught me that teaching can be messy and costly.
I wonder what Mr. Keating would think of standardized testing, data collection, TKES, CCRPI, technology in the classroom, etc. Actually, I know what he would think. He would think that programs and methods don’t make good teachers but passion for content and relationships are what make good teachers. We need more Mr. Keatings who don’t care so much about the system but rather care about unlocking a mind to life-long learning.
I don’t know much about the life of Robin Williams, but I am grateful for his work in developing the character of Mr. Keating. It is only fitting to consider some of Mr. Keating’s advice:
“There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.”
“Carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”
“Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone.”
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
“O Captain! My Captain!”