While working on some presentations for staff, senior students and other principals, I have had reason to visit one of my favourite “school movies”, Lean on Me. Based on the story of “Crazy” Joe Clarke it follows a principal sent in to rescue a failing school in the USA.

Clark gained public attention in the 1980s for his unconventional and controversial disciplinary measures as the principal of Eastside High. Clark was seen as an educator who was not afraid to get tough on difficult students, one who would often carry a bullhorn or a baseball bat at school. During his time as principal, Clark expelled 300 students who were frequently tardy or absent from school.

Played in the movie by Morgan Freeman, Joe Clark stood up to school administrators, angry parents and gang members. He refused to accept that his school would fail.

Mr Clark actually ended up being jailed for locking (and chaining) the school doors to keep the drug dealers out of the school. I’m not sure I would go that far but…

The film reminded me of what some schools and their leaders have to put up with day after day. It also reminded me that a positive attitude and the willingness to “dig in” and change your reality is a very powerful part of living a successful life.

Talking to our Year 12 students I have the opportunity to remind them that their school gives them great opportunities but these opportunities are wasted if they are given to students who are negative towards themselves, their world and their chances of success.

Taking on and developing a positive mindset is an excellent antidote to the negative reality that news broadcasts regale us with each day.

Our message to our student is:

Life will be full of challenges, mistakes, missteps, dangers, tests and opportunities. You will have multiple opportunities to fold, give up or walk away. You will, at the same time, have the opportunity to face the challenge, give it all you’ve got, take it on the chin (if necessary) and accept that no matter how hard things get this is going to make you stronger! Remember, you cannot control others, the weather, the examinations, your genetics, the ATAR process etc…But you can control your attitude and how you react to things. With a smile, with good grace and with a determination to do better next time.

You may not be the smartest, most naturally talented or best looking but that should not hold you back. That should not become your excuse for under-performing. Plenty of incredibly intelligent, good-looking and talented people fail because success in life, as in elite sport, is 80% Mind and 20% Body.

Positive thoughts will lead to positive results. So, train yourself to be positive by practicing:

  • reminding yourself you are doing your best and you can “win”
  • remembering that you have skills and talents needed to do well
  • accepting that letting negativity into your head will only drag you down further
  • remembering that the thoughts you put out determine what you get back.

In a time when I constantly read how stressed, damaged and overwhelmed our students are by the pressure of examinations, expectations and an uncertain future, sometimes we need to shift our way of looking at the world first, and then dealing with the “cards” we are dealt.

Postscript
For those who like a “good old fashioned” school movie with a positive message might I also suggest:

  • To Sir With Love
  • Stand and Deliver
  • Army Intelligence a.k.a. Renaissance Man
  • Dangerous Minds
  • Mr Holland’s Opus

For sporty school movies try:

  • Remember the Titans (Football and race)
  • Hoosiers (Basketball and redemption)

For something a little less straight try:

  • Dead Poet’s Society
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • The Breakfast Club