Getting in the Swing of Back to School Season: Teacher themed Reads and DVDs

The return to school this fall has been understandably more challenging than usual for students, educators and parents.

Across the country, school and college teachers are grappling with uncertainty about how they’re going to instruct their students for the bulk of the 2020-2021 school year.  They have been preparing themselves to impart effective online instruction to their students.  They’re concerned about their own safety, the safety of their families, and the safety of their students when they have to go back to in person teaching.

To mark the occasion of the return to school learning and to appreciate the extra hard efforts teachers everywhere are putting into their educative efforts, we’ve put together a teacher-themed book list—stories in which the school or college teachers are either the protagonist or an important influence on the main character; some teachers find themselves in the midst of some shady goings on and others even help solve a crime.

We also have a selection of teacher themed movies available on DVD.

Campusland by Scott Johnston

A tumultuous and often hilarious first novel about one year of insanity at the Ivy-like Devon University, a blissful bubble of elite students and the adults at their mercy. Eph Russell is an English professor up for tenure. He may look and sound privileged, but Eph is right out of gun-rack, Bible-thumping rural Alabama. His beloved Devon, though, has become a place of warring tribes, and there are landmines waiting for Eph that he is unequipped to see.

The Committee : a novel by Sterling Watson

Professor Tom Stall’s career and life are threatened when a nefarious government-affiliated group of men begin investigating the private acts of innocent people in late 1950s Florida.

How to Be Safe : a novel by Tom McAllister

Recently suspended for a so-called outburst, high school English teacher Anna Crawford is stewing over the injustice at home when she is shocked to see herself named on television as a suspect in a shooting at the school where she works. Though she is quickly exonerated, and the actual teenage murderer identified, her life is nevertheless held up for relentless scrutiny and judgment as this quiet town descends into media mania.

John Woman by Walter Mosley

A young man reinvents himself as a professor to share his late father’s wisdom at an unorthodox university, only to encounter fellow intellectuals who have insights into his father’s hidden past.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Set in southern Louisiana during the 1940sGrant Wiggins, a college-educated man who returns to his hometown to teach, forms an unlikely bond with Jefferson, a young Black man convicted of murder and sentenced to the electric chair, when he is asked to impart his learning and pride to the condemned man. 

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Arriving as a replacement teacher in a privileged Bay Area school, Molly becomes intrigued with the hidden lives and challenging ambitions of her students, who are struggling with a tragedy from their middle-school years.

Murder is Academic : a Cambridge mystery by Christine Poulson

All is not well at Cambridge University’s St. Ethelreda’s College. The head of the English Department is dead, and Professor Cassandra James is appointed the task of running the department. Faced with the choice of whipping her underperforming colleagues into shape or losing the much-needed funding for the program, Cassandra resigns herself to the challenge. However, when she stumbles upon the former head’s private papers and realizes that the death was no accident, Cassandra is forced to use her academic expertise of solving obscure literary puzzles for a very different purpose: tracking down a killer.

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Spare and lucid, this story follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

A Philosophy of Ruin : a novel by Nicholas Mancusi

A young philosophy professor finds himself in the middle of a drug-running operation after his personal life derails.

Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Pnin is a professor of Russian at an American college who takes the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he cannot master. Pnin is a tireless lover who writes to his treacherous Liza. Pnin is the focal point of subtle academic conspiracies he cannot begin to comprehend, yet he stages a faculty party to end all faculty parties forever.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

A teacher at a girl’s school in Edinburgh during the 1930s comes into conflict with school authorities because of her unorthodox teaching methods.

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss : a novel by  Rajeev Balasubramanyam

An internationally renowned economist and divorced father of three survives an accident before whimsically trading in his high-stress Nobel Prize ambitions to pursue elusive happiness.

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

When Yuri Krasny, the boy she is privately tutoring, finally opens up to her, telling the story of his Ukrainian-immigrant parents and the terrible accident that changed their lives forever, English teacher Maggie Topper, inspired by his strength, finds the courage to change her own life.

Stoner by John Williams

This unassuming story about the life of a quiet English professor has earned the admiration of readers all over the globe. William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Arriving in the village of Rye, England, in 1914, Beatrice Nash, a young woman of good family, becomes the first female teacher of Latin at the local school and falls in love with her sponsor’s nephew.

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

In the wake of a drama teacher’s decision to direct Lysistrata for the high school play, the women in the town begin to sexually reject their husbands and boyfriends in ways that force both men and women to reevaluate their views on relationships and sexuality.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Lucy Snowe flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new file as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster.

What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal (Audiobook) by Zoë Heller & Wanda McCaddon

When her best friend Sheba Hart’s love affair with an underage male student comes to light, igniting a media circus, solitary school teacher Barbara Covett decides to write an account of the affair in her friend’s defense, in the process revealing not only Sheba’s secrets, but also her own.

Wonder Boys: a novel  by Michael Chabon

This novel follows Professor Grady Tripp, stalled in the midst of his endless second book, and his student James Leer, a budding writer obsessed with Hollywood self-destruction and struggling with his own searching heart.

DVDs

Anesthesia

Multiple lives cross paths when a Columbia University professor is mugged.

Bad Teacher

Elizabeth is a foul-mouthed, ruthless junior high teacher who can’t wait to marry her meal ticket and get out of her bogus day job. When she’s dumped by her fiance, she begins to woo a rich, handsome substitute. Competing for his affections is overly energetic colleague, Amy. Elizabeth also finds herself fighting off the advances of a sarcastic gym teacher. The consequences of her outrageous schemes give her students, her coworkers and herself an education like no other.

The Great Debaters

Melvin B. Tolson is a professor at Wiley College in Texas. Wiley is a small African-American college. In 1935, Tolson inspired students to form the school’s first debate team. Tolson turns a group of underdog students into a historically elite debate team which goes on to challenge Harvard in the national championship. Inspired by a true story.

Irrational Man

Philosophy professor Abe Lucas is at rock bottom emotionally, unable to find any meaning or joy in life. He feels that everything he’s tried to do from political activism to teaching hasn’t made any difference. Abe gets involved with two women: Rita Richards, a lonely professor who is unhappy in her marriage; and Jill Pollard, his best student, who becomes his closest friend. Pure chance changes everything when Abe and Jill overhear a stranger’s conversation and become drawn in.

Miss Stevens

Stuck at a crossroads in her personal life, it falls on Miss Stevens to chaperone three of her students Billy, Margot, and Sam on a weekend trip to a drama competition. Exploring the fine line between being a grown up and being a kid, this film is about students becoming teachers and teachers coming to realize that the messiness of youth never really goes away.

The Professor

Johnny Depp delivers a wickedly funny performance as Richard, a buttoned-down college lecturer who, after learning he has six months to live, transforms into a rebellious party animal. To the shock of his wife and school chancellor, and the delight of his students, Richard leads a hilarious crusade against authority and hypocrisy in this dark comedy co starring Zoey Deutch.

 The Professor and the Madman

When a professor begins compiling the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, he receives thousands of entries from a patient in a mental asylum.

Submission

A cynical college professor takes a keen interest in a talented young writing student. When lines are crossed, it becomes unclear who is the victim and who is the victimizer.

The Teacher

In 1983, students and parents at a suburban Bratislava middle school must decide whether to go against new teacher Miss Drazdechova, a high-ranking official of the Communist Party who is tying pupils’ grades to how helpful their families can be with favors.

To Dust 

Grieving the recent death of his wife, Shmuel decides that, in order to move on, he must understand the science behind the decomposition process of his wife’s body, despite the blasphemy inherent in any scientific inquiry. He seeks out Albert, a community-college biology professor who Shmuel enlists to teach informal science lessons. As their macabre misadventures and unlikely friendship grow, they prove they will stop at nothing to satiate their curiosity and find Shmuel the peace he seeks.

-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian 

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