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.