10 Reasons Educators Must See Sister Act 2

28 Jan

Those of you who follow my tweets learned this week that I have a great and abiding love for one of the best teachers’ movies of all time… “Sister Act 2”. Oh yes, you read that correctly, and yes, I’m talking about Whoopie Goldberg, in a nun’s habit, teaching music in an urban Catholic school.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sister Act 2. In fact, I’m such a devoted fan that a couple of nights ago, I stayed on the Life Cycle at the gym for the entire movie, unabashedly grinning from ear to ear. Because I anticipate scoffing and eye-rolling from those readers drawn to more cerebral films, I’ve decided to defend my position on this, and so I give you:

10 Reasons Educators Must See Sister Act 2

1. Whoopie Goldberg as Sister Mary Clarence conveys the unique blend of confidence, commitment and creativity that so many terrific teachers possess. Her simultaneous wooing and setting limits with the students is strategically spot-on.

I recently recommended this movie, among others, to a member of my PLN who is looking for ways to support a new teacher in her efforts to overcome a struggle with classroom management. Watch the following clip and you’ll begin to understand why.

Some of you may have been thrown off because I used the phrase “classroom management”, a term so often erroneously interchanged with “discipline”. But there is a lot to be learned about managing young people (and all people) from this clip.

A good teacher believes in students and draws them out, inspires their trust and can get them to go where they are afraid to go. A good teacher holds them accountable for pulling their own weight, makes the toughest journey seem like more fun than they could even imagine “Let’s party!”… and celebrates with them when they reach their destination. Sister Mary Clarence does all of those things brilliantly in this short clip.

2. There is a scene in the movie where Sister Mary Clarence “lays down the law”. Every new teacher should watch this scene before the first week of school. Although her style may not be right for every situation, her methodology is sound. She lays out her expectations in no uncertain terms, states the consequence for refusing to meet them and holds her ground firmly. She does not take the students’ behavior personally but makes it clear that she is going to hold them accountable for it.

3. Albeit lightly, the movie addresses the critical role neighborhood schools can play in urban communities.

4. Although many of the characters are practically archetypes, their interactions, quirks and qualities are each rooted in a grain of truth. From young men struggling to define themselves, to mother and daughter struggles, and from Lauren Hill’s tough girl with a ‘tude to the young teacher with a kind heart, if you look, you will find people and experiences that you recognize.

5. The dynamic of “Us versus them”/”Students versus adults” is nicely portrayed. More importantly, the redirecting of this dynamic into one of mutual trust, commitment and respect is handled effectively.

Like all good teachers, those in the movie are willing to be the adults. They don’t personalize. Instead, they make a genuine effort to find and delight in the good in their students, and to understand and support them, sometimes in spite of themselves.

They also deliver value – they offer something that students want and need. As a result, the students eventually overcome their distrust, open up and allow their teachers to help them to grow.

6. The teachers in this movie are not whiners and are not victims. They are creative problem solvers. They are flexible and resourceful. They counsel. They support each other and their students and make doing so look like it feels really good. They raise funds. They do community service, take field trips and do home visits. They roll up their sleeves and clean house. They take ownership in their students, their school and their community.

7. The Priest/Principal is both terrifically flawed and wonderfully redeemable. Through him we see the exasperating struggle between old and new, and that in schools, as in life, there can be value in both. We see a burnt out and overwhelmed leader brought back to life by his students and staff. We also see an administrator who is willing to revise his course when he realizes that it’s in the best interest of his students.

8. The movie shows both teachers and students rising to an occasion and that is incredibly motivating and a lot of fun to watch… which leads me to reason #9.

9. In cartoons, corny old movies and the 70s sitcom “Love American Style”, rockets go off and bells ring when people fall in love. For me the sparks fly when I witness anyone joyfully embracing or sharing a talent… doing what they were literally born to do… For example, I saw Wayne Gretzky skating once, years ago, just for fun, and I literally couldn’t look away.

I’ve come to realize, I am a talent junkie. As much as I love to serve, I have to admit that my reasons for teaching are not entirely altruistic… my motives are not entirely unselfish. You see, I literally live to see the light go on in my students’ eyes, to hear the excitement in their voices…

When you are a teacher, if you are open to it, you get to bear witness to more than your fair share of talent coming to life and that is an amazing, beautiful, goose-bump-giving thing. Whether they are mastering a new skill, creating a masterpiece, overcoming a personal challenge, excelling at a sport, standing up for a friend, demonstrating courage under fire, singing like angels or achieving perfect scores, I am constantly inspired and humbled by my students.

Watch Lauren Hill in this next clip and imagine if we could make all of our students feel that way…be that lit up, that joyful about SOME part of their school experience. All teachers should at least aspire to that goal.

10. And for the grand finale?  There is a scene in the movie where Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopie) is talking to Rita (Lauren Hill). She tells her that if when she wakes up in the morning all she can think about is singing, then she’s a singer. Years ago, the very first time I saw this movie, I heard that line and it hit me like a ton of bricks, because that is exactly how I feel…how I have always felt… about teaching.

Please share your thoughts about this and other great movies and books for teachers. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!


7 Responses to “10 Reasons Educators Must See Sister Act 2”

  1. Marti Sides January 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    I so love this movie. You are dead on with your justifications for loving it. The movie really is inspiring for teachers. And the clips you shared are literally my same favorite scenes from the movie!

    • thenewtag January 30, 2010 at 12:15 am #

      :o) Hiiiiii Marti! Of COURSE we have the same favorite clips, and it really is a great movie, especially for a teacher that needs a pick-me-up. I had such fun writing this one. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’ve been reading all of your stuff and it’s really terrific. You always make me think…

  2. Cowpernicus January 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm #


    Great post. You put work into this one!

    Try: What Great Teachers do Differently, Todd Whitaker and The Mindful Teacher by Dennis Shirley.

    You will love both.

  3. ktenkely February 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    I love Sister Act 2 🙂 I haven’t seen it since before I became a teacher, it has some great wisdom for teachers!

  4. Damianne February 18, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    Thank you for writing this post. I haven’t seen this movie in years, not since I was a student myself. I hadn’t drawn the parallels then; this reminds me to revisit books, movies, etc. and connect them to my experience.


  1. Resources for Improving Classroom Management and School Culture « The New Tag; A Blog by Melissa C. Tran - May 23, 2010

    […] 10 Reasons Educators Must See Sister Act 2 […]

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    […] 10 Reasons Educators Must See Sister Act 2 […]

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