About Sarah Denham

Sarah has been a classroom teacher for ten years and is certified in almost every subject area. She also holds a Bachelors and Masters in Social Studies and a Specialist in Instructional Tech. She is also an ed tech guru who loves blending current technologies into her literature classroom. When she is not teaching, Sarah loves books, writing, playing with her dogs, and going on adventures with her husband. Sarah loves to hear from readers and other fellow educators so feel free to contact her at @EdTechieSarah or sarah.denham416@gmail.com.
Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Robin Williams, 1951-2014

Since I write for an education magazine, there isn’t always a need to write about celebrity news. But when I heard the news that Robin Williams had passed away on August 11th, I felt the need to write something. I never met Mr. Williams, but he has had a profound influence on how I see the world as a teacher. Many teachers will say that Dead Poet’s Society influenced them in their careers. I can only say that to an extent. I have never watched the movie in its entirety, but there are pieces that speak to me as an educator and, when I was younger, as a student. No, it is other parts of his career that has influenced my world view.

I am part of a generation of teachers born between 1978 and 1983 (give or take a few years) that grew up with Robin Williams. Our parents may have allowed us to watch pieces of his comedy specials or at least repeated censored versions of his jokes to us. We knew about Mork and Mindy and tried to watch reruns when they appeared. We knew his voice anywhere. We learned what love was and wasn’t, and why we should always help others. He was like that uncle that always made you laugh when you were kid, but as you grew older, he started teaching how the world works and how to navigate it. That is why I want to honor his life by going over a few of the things I learned from his work that I use today. The two movies that I list below not only show his amazing skills as an actor. They came out in three very formative ages in my childhood and affected mine and many of my generation’s way of seeing the world, whether they know it or not.

Hook

Robin Williams as Peter Pan in 'Hook' - image courtesy Amblin Entertainment

Robin Williams as Peter Pan in ‘Hook’ – image courtesy Amblin Entertainment

This movie probably had the most impact on me. I was nine when I saw this movie, and I can still recall all of the excitement and awe I felt watching this film. I loved the story of Peter Pan growing up. Seeing Peter Pan (aka Panning) as an adult who has lost the magic that he possessed as a boy was jarring to a my childhood self, but as I grew up so much of it has become an outline of what I should and shouldn’t do now that I am a grown up. I try to keep whatever “magic” I possessed as a little girl and put it into my teaching practices as well as my life. It is so easy to get caught up in the responsibilities and stresses of our jobs and adult lives like Peter does. We forget what it is to discover and explore new things in our lives, and I know that as a teacher, I have sometimes lost that as more and more has been placed on me. I don’t want to be Peter Panning at the beginning of Hook but a version of him at the end of the film. I think most of us do.

Mrs. Doubtfire

When I was eleven, I started really becoming aware of how many of my friends and classmates were from divorced families. My parents were (and are) still married so I had no understanding of what they were going through.

Robin WIlliams as Mrs. Doubtfire, courtesy 20th Century Fox Films

Robin WIlliams as Mrs. Doubtfire, courtesy 20th Century Fox Films

When Mrs. Doubtfire came out, it showed a version of this pain and heartache but also built upon what I knew family could and should be. As long as there are people who love and care about you, you are a part of a family. When working with my students, I knew many of them came from divorced or single family homes. Some of them had recently gone or were going through divorce while others had been dealing with it for many years of their young lives. I always think of this movie and try to let them know they are loved and cared for.

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