Top 5 Wednesday: Top Teachers or Mentors



There was a special plea to skip Harry Potter! Top 5 Wednesday tends to get HP as a response on just about every topic, which is ok by me, even if I’m not such a huge fan. To each her own!

These are not in any special order.

Favorite Fictional Teachers


David Powlett-Jones

To Serve Them All My Days

I love this book, I adored the somewhat revised/edited tv version from the 80s or 90s, too.  I loathe the new cover which has absolutely nothing what-so-ever to do with the story, so I’m using the cover I love! Coal miners son-turned Grammar School boy-turned schoolmaster David Powlett-Jones comes home from World War I to recover from Shell Shock at Bamfylde–a second or third tier British Public [i.e. private prep school like Groton] School and stays. Along the way he meets life and love head on. There is so much in this rich novel! R.F. Delderfield remains one of my very favorite authors of all time, though today each of his tremendous books would be chopped up into a series. To Serve Them All My Days.

Upper-class muscular Christianity at it’s best in that opening song from school chapel!

Jean Brodie



Muriel Spark was a master of the very short novel. Not a novella, a full novel, just told on few pages. Jean Brodie–the role in which Maggie Smith honed her McGonagall brogue (in the movie version) is masterpiece of spinsterly schoolmistriss priggishness.  I loved every word. So what if she was dead wrong on Mussolini–many were in that day. We must remember, she was in the PRIME of LIFE! The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

[Another note on the t.v. version. Before Jim Carter made “Carson” the catchword for butlers, Gordon Jackson, aka Gordon Lowther in Miss Brodie] had made “Hudson” mean the same in the original (and ONLY) Upstairs, Downstairs in the 1970s.]

There was also an excellent t.v. version.

Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Favorite Real Life Teachers in Books and Movies

This was a very hard list to narrow down! I’ve read so many inspiring, true teacher stories. Jaime Escalante of the movie “Stand and Deliver,” Marva Collins, so many, many excellent choices.  I’ve read about Kurt Hahn, about masters at Eton and about teachers from Teach (formerly Teach for America) and in the Peace Corps that finding just a few was rough. So there are not necessarily my “very, very favorite” just the three that first came to mind.


Water is Wide



Author Pat Conroy spent a year teaching on a small, deeply impoverished island off South Carolina in the late 1960s. This is the fictionalized account. Few people outside the area knew such a Third World existence happened in America before this book.

Note: Angelia Jolie’s Dad, John Voight, played the fictious teacher in the movie which was renamed “Conrack.”


Freedom Writers Diary



I put this one in because my kids made me watch the movie and I’m glad I did. I’m even happier that the book, read in class, and the movie (watched after) so resonated with my kids. A powerful testament to what CAN happen in school when it is allowed. Today our schools are mired in culture war, haves vs have nots war, the testing warand so much more, that almost nothing inspiring can happen. Moments like this are essential and must be treasured. Freedom Writers Diary.


Savage Inequalities



This book is not about one teacher, but I’ve included it because everything in it, all these years later (it was published in ’88), is still present in our schools. This is for the teachers who daily face the battle or doing the impossible for those least prepared to learn with the least support of anyone in power and with the least amount of money. Yes, the author is a well-known bleeding heart. Tough. He hit the nail on the head with this one. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol.




Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGoinigal in Harry Potter


Would you like to participate in Top 5 Wednesday? Join the group on Goodreads.com and then post your list on your blog or a video on youtube.com

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