I saw Akeelah and the Bee
last week. I enjoyed the movie, but Spellbound
, a documentary on a very similar subject, is a much better movie.
Seeing these two in close proximity got me to thinking about fiction and non-fiction, and the way people indicate their views in the fiction they write.
Specifically, the Laurence Fishburne character in Akeelah and the Bee is a character like dozens I've seen in books and movies before; he's the Tough Teacher. In this case, he's Akeelah's tutor that helps her prepare for the regional, and then the national, spelling bee. He's incredibly strict, constantly critical, and extremely sparing with praise, demands to be treated with absolute respect himself, but treats his student incredibly disrespectfully, or in ways that would be considered disrespectful outside of this special teacher-student relationship. The implication, here and in other depictions of the Tough Teacher, is that while the experience of being taught in this way may be unpleasant, it's effective; you need a Tough Teacher if you want to succeed. The Tough Teacher is sometimes a coach teaching a sport, and sometimes a serrgeant teaching how to be a soldier, but the same lesson is always being taught; you need a Tough Teacher if you want to win.
While this is common in fiction because it makes good drama, is it true? I certainly try not to act like a Tough Teacher when I'm teaching people. I've had a couple of Tough Teachers, but none of them have been effective; the teachers I've learned most from have been friendly and respectful, not slave drivers.
Am I anomalous? Does anyone reading this feel they've learned from someone with the authoritarian Tough Teacher style, and if so, was it because of that style, or in spite of it?