I still remember the moment when I, as a adolescent (I was 17), knew I wanted to teach:
           watching - or rather experiencing - the movie "Dead Poets Society".

I really connected to many elements in this movie. Just to name a few:

1) the desire for freedom of thought

McAllister: You take a big risk by encouraging them to become artists, John. When they realize they’re not Rembrandts, Shakespeares, or Mozarts, they’ll hate you for it.
Keating: We’re not talking artists, George. We’re talking free thinkers.

2) live to the fullest


What Neil said (a quote from Thoreau's “Walden") : “I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life … ” always remained a kind of motto.

3) dare to do it your way


Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular. Even though the heard may go ” That’s bad.” Robert Frost said, ” Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” I want you to find your own walk right now, your own way of striding, pacing: any direction, anything you want. Whether it’s proud or silly. Anything. Gentlemen, the courtyard is yours. You don’t have to perform. Just make it for yourself. Mr. Dalton, will you be joining us?

Charles: Exercising the right not to walk.

Keating: Thank you, Mr. Dalton. You just illustrated the point. Swim against the stream.



Nolan: John, the curriculum here, as set, has proven it works. If you question it, what’s to prevent them from doing the same?

Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.


Surely, this movie is also prone to criticism, but in a certain way it inspired me, touched me, ....

Now, years later and actually being a teacher, I realize how many of the elements that inspired me in that movie are still present in my work as a teacher, in my work as researcher, and in my life in general.

Indeed, I want to be a teacher that provokes and stimulates free thinking in my students. "Sapere aude" is the motto I was "raised" with as a researcher. Dare to think!

But it shouldn't stop there.. learners should also dare to do! So I want to encourage learners to try, to experiment, to explore... and I want to support them in the process of doing it. Providing them with the tools that help them to do it their way. Learners must learn to go their own way! In my classroom, I always had 2 quotes hanging on the wall:

1. The teacher pointed the way, but I found it myself

2. Teachers open doors, but you must enter by yourself

to be continued...

© 2016 by Luc Nijs