Friday, April 7, 2017

Minions: A Teaching Movie?

Today’s blog post was originally scheduled to include an interview with another one of my teachers, but timing didn't work out. Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, I just have to put that post on hold. Inspiration really can come from anywhere and what inspired me to write this replacement is as strange as it gets.

I am a big movie fan, as many people around the world are. Going to the movie theater, buying DVDs, and watching movies at home are all so much fun to me. Some of my friends have a strange obsession with the Minions movie. At first, it didn’t make any sense to me why a children’s cartoon was connecting so well with a group of teenagers. I didn’t see the film and I knew nothing about it, so I went and researched it a little bit. The first thing I found blew me away. Would you believe Minions (according to grossed almost 1.2 billion dollars internationally? How did a movie with gibberish-speaking protagonists, gain enough popularity to earn a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than Home Alone?

After getting over my original, close-minded confusion, I attempted to start looking at the movie in a more objective way. Despite having no linguistic skills whatsoever, the Minions manage to create an emotional connection with audiences. Why is this the case?

Throughout the movie, the Minions are genuine in every action they take part in. They are completely transparent to the audience in everything that they do. Moviegoers do not have to make guesses about their motives, because they will blatantly show what they are about to do and, more importantly, why.

While the premise of the movie is that the Minions want to be ‘despicable,’ kids and adults alike find solace in their heartwarming emotions. The characters in the movie see them as evil, but theater patrons enjoy seeing them care for one another.

Even though they are the titular characters, the Minions fail endlessly. Very rarely do they succeed. In fact, the entire first quarter of the movie essentially shows how the Minions achieve their goal. This doesn’t stop them though - they continue to try new things. The Minions do not hide their setbacks either, instead the yellow creatures outwardly accept them and try to adapt based off of them.

Finally, in Minions, the protagonists have disagreements with each other. Constant infighting between the Minions does not distract from the larger goal they have. At the end of the day, while they may disagree, the Minions find a way to overcome any disparity and band together.

I swear all of that had a purpose. As trivial as it may sound, a lot can be taken from films that generate excitement. The elements that make Minions a box office success are similar to the elements that make a teacher successful. Now, very few educators are one-eyed, yellow, hot dog shaped individuals, but personalities shown by the Minions are ones that should be transferred to education as a whole. I’m just using Minions as an example. Many movies show good teaching qualities. Just like when students analyze literature and draw parallels to their lives, teachers can break down movies of all genres.

Transparency in teaching is extremely important. Students should never wonder why they are doing work. If work is purposeless, it is useless too. The Minions are very straightforward. They do “X,” because “Y.” Educators that work the same way, in my experience, are better at creating positive rapport. Viewers are never in the dark when they watch Minions. It is empowering for students to not only feel like they know what is going on, but for them to genuinely understand the reasoning behind classroom decisions. When teachers withhold information from students, it perpetuates an age-old divide between the two sides of education. To ensure classes run smoothly, with more collaboration, and with more efficiency, each party needs to be on the same page. Any teacher who treats their students as underlings shoots themselves in the foot. It’s cliche to say at this point, but respect is mutual. If a teacher wants respect and trust, it is crucial they establish an environment where students know they are respected and trusted.

Minions are evil. Their original purpose was to equip Despicable Me’s villain with a group of henchmen, yet everyone are drawn to them. Unlike stormtroopers in Star Wars, Nicky Santoro in Casino, or the Death Eaters in Harry Potter, the Minions have redeeming qualities. They are humane. As humans, we are drawn to humanity. Whether it be in movies or education, our favorites are the ones who show the most compassion and empathy. Think back to some of your best teachers from the past. Now, think back to some of your worst teachers. What set them apart? My answer is very simple. Educators that I cannot connect with typically run with no reference made to students. The focus is on either what’s easiest for the teacher or what our textbook says. Stifling rules are put in place to control, rather than to enhance authentic learning. Why would a student be excited to attend a class that’s run in a borderline totalitarian fashion? Teachers that build real connections with kids are the ones that are remembered forever. In order to build a positive relationships with students, teachers need to create an environment where students feel allowed to question, explore, and draw their own conclusions. For the entirety of Minions, one of the characters lugs around a teddy bear. This particular minion will stop at nothing to protect his bear. He refuses to let anything happen to it and wants to keep the toy in his arms at all times. Inviting classrooms work the same way. Within a teacher’s classroom, students should feel safe enough to delve deep into their writing, reading, or research without fear of being judged or non-constructively criticized.

Nobody is perfect. Anybody who pretends to be perfect is lying. The Minions are far from perfect. In fact, one of the most endearing aspects of their characters is that constant failure does not perturb them. Minions are not quiet about when something doesn’t work. If one of their ideas falls flat, they own it and move on. Successful teachers are the same way. Believe it or not, a lot of the time, if something fails in the classroom, teachers do not do anything to fix the issue. Of course, I have no statistics to back this up, but this is just what I’ve seen through my ten years of school. A more positive way for educators to face failure, is to admit it and to just try a new idea. Rapport with students grows when teachers show vulnerability. Earlier, I pointed out if teachers want to respect, they need to respect their students. It’s the same thing here. Kids are more likely to step out of their comfort zone when teachers show they’re not afraid to put themselves out there either.

The Minions’ constant conflict within their ranks is arguably the most important characteristic to look at. Disagreements are a part of everyone’s lives. Students disagree with fellow students. Teachers disagree with other teachers. Teachers and students butt heads over certain topics. Administration policies sometimes create unpleasant feelings amongst teachers and students. Parents air their grievances towards teachers and administrative officials. Students and parents collide often as well. There are even more examples of dissension that I didn’t even mention. The Minions never retain harsh feelings at each other. They can accidentally launch missiles at each other and in under five minutes, it’s no longer an issue. Humans in general can learn something here, not just teachers and students. Holding grudges will inevitably eviscerate a school. Social drama does not accomplish anything positive for a school. In order for school to be inviting for students (and teachers, admin, and parents), everyone has to be open minded. I understand that is easier said than done, but feedback has to be acceptable. Without honest feedback, how can a teacher ever know the pros and cons of their class? Teachers look at school with a different lens than students. If we block ourselves in from any other opinions, we are faced with a stagnant future. For the sake of innovation and constant growth, fights should be avoided in favor of calm discussions with opposing viewpoints. When we take advice from Minions and collectively put our differences aside to achieve the same goal: student development.

This blog post may have been a bit eccentric, but I honestly believe there is merit in analyzing Minions for the sake of improving the educational realm. Sometimes teachers and students do not communicate the same way. Adults come from a different generation than kids. That does not mean the doors of discussion are locked shut. Once again, look at Minions. None of the Minions speak a word of English, or any human language for that matter. They overcame this language barrier to earn 1.2 billion dollars for Universal Studios. If Minions can make that much money while speaking gibberish, teachers can convey their messages to students and vice versa. It’s not all on the educators. Students have to also be willing to accept teachers’ attempts to connect, just like audiences have to be willing to accept “pwede na” as a real word. However, without teachers making a conscious effort, students will never reciprocate.

Thank you so much for reading this week’s unique edition of my blog! I would love to hear any thoughts (in agreement or opposition), any suggestions you have, or any questions you may have. I will continue to update this on Fridays as the year progresses. You can follow me on Twitter @TheSammer88 for live updates from me. The hashtag, #BowTieBoys has been compiling my thoughts and my partners’ thoughts, so be sure to check that out if you want to hear more from us.

Works Cited:
"Minions (2015)." Box Office Mojo. IMDb, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
Minions. Dir. Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin. Perf. Sandra Bullokc and Jon Hamm. Universal Pictures, 2015. DVD.


  1. Inspiration really CAN come from anywhere Sam and I'm so glad you allowed your inspiration to move you in writing this blog. I love your wonderful weaving of ideas connecting Minions and successful teacher You inspired me to go see the movie but more important - to celebrate the successful teachers who inspire amazing students like you!

  2. Sam your use of the minions to help us think about the importance of transparency is inspired. Indeed trust, truth, mutual respect are essential for stutents to be willing to take the risks necessary to learn. Learners must be willing to risk failure to move forward. Teachers must establish the relationship that serves as the safety net beneath the tightrope.

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