Film 9 - Coach Carter

Movies that Will Inspire You:
Learning to See the Child Who is Not Yet There

There are a number of wonderful films that capture the essence of teachers who have been able to see and hold the vision of what a child can be and do. In this movie, a tough inner-city coach locks his winning basketball team out of the gym until they get their grades up. The players, their parents, fellow teachers, the school board and administrators are all furious at Coach Carter for daring to interrupt an athletic season for something like grades.

This film, starring Samuel L. Jackson, is available on Netflix and other venues. Public libraries often have a good selection of films, or you can rent them or even buy your favorites through

Coach CarterCoach Carter shows a man who knows his players have more to give than they are accustomed to giving. He sees the child who is not yet there in these teenage boys who live for basketball. He believes in the concept of the “student athlete” and acts accordingly. Coach Carter expects that his players can sign a contract and live up to his expectations of basic academic success. Through a process that is more than a little tumultuous at times, it is the students themselves who affirm his decision to see the best in them.

His faith in his students reminds us of research that was done in the late 1960s about what is called the Pygmalion Effect in the classroom. Essentially, the researchers documented that the expectations of the teachers influenced student outcomes. If a teacher has the expectation that because of some kind of perceived “disadvantage,” a child will probably not do so well, that expectation will be fulfilled. If, on the other hand, the teacher believes that the child will do well, that also is the likely outcome.

I have taught teachers how to teach reading in a large inner-city public school system in one of America’s largest cities. I had a number of conversations with some who believed that their children could not and should not be expected to learn to read at an early age. They said these children needed to learn to sit at a table for meals and learn to behave before they could learn to read. I argued that there was no reason the children could not do both. There was nothing wrong with those little brains! Some of the teachers agreed with me and got tremendous results.

I recently read that no child has ever been loved as much as he or she wanted to be loved. Isn’t that true of all of us? One profoundly important way we can love our children, our spouses and our friends is by seeing the potential inside of them and working to help them express the best they have to offer. When we simply expect the best without pressure or any kind of intimidation, we see who they really are.

Coach Carter helps his students see the consequences of their choices so they can choose what to do and what not to do. He assists his students by offering a way out rather than by judging them. It is an extremely interesting and often inspiring film that I think you will enjoy.

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