In The Classroom – Glengarry Glen Ross and the Gold Leads

Blake’s diatribe in 1992’s Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my favorite from-the-bootstraps, spittle-spewing scenes ever.

Recently, a respected teacher colleague of mine used the scene as an analogy for his own instruction. He did it effectively, in my opinion. Blake’s soap box spiel is the voice in my teacher friend’s head – urging him to ignore negative thinking and to focus on the actions that reap student gains.  It is similar to the din in my own head as I spin plates in the classroom – the voice that urges me to block the distractions, the annoyances, and the injustices, and simply focus on what I can control. Do my job. Do no harm. Create student gains.

Blake’s full-throated verbal attack is an analogy that is easily misused. His harangue is similar to the vitriol that fuels educational reform. Seems to me, in the ball-busting free market scenario that undergirds our schools, the “Glengarry leads” aren’t our most challenging students. The “Glengarry leads” are the students you can count on to ‘close’ – the well fed, the home-read, the suburban-bred. The AP-bound. The flip side is, I’ve seen teachers that could “sell” learning in ways that would make Blake look like a eunuch. They can inspire, inform, and transform in 45 minutes of blood, sweat, and tears that took 3 hours to prepare for -yet they are working with the ‘other’ leads; leads that don’t reap golden watches and fancy cars. Teach in the wealthy ‘burbs (golden leads), you get the premium pay and esteem (you can bet your millage increase that your state’s Teacher Of The Year most likely works in a wealthy district), you teach in poverty, and…well, let’s just say Blake, vis a vis society, would deem you one of those losers (gotta love that Time cover). It’s upside down in teaching – Blake would be a maggot compared to some of the giants we have teaching our underserved in education.

Then again, who spends time in the classrooms of the “other leads” to see the miracles and the miracle workers?

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