Ever thought an animated film could be a source of inspiration? Last weekend, I went to see Manowar in Warsaw and it took me 10 hours by coach — fortunately it was a very comfortable one, so I could watch films, listen to music and chill. So, I decided to watch Kung Fu Panda. Again. Mostly because: a) it’s a good film, b) dubbing is really nice c) music is awesome. But this time, instead of enjoying the movie, something else caught my eye and that was enough for a change of a whole perspective.
We know the main character is Po the Panda, who loves kung fu and ends up as a Dragon Warrior in a classic tale of “from zero to hero”. But try to look at one of the supporting characters, Master Shifu, Po’s unwilling teacher. He’s a real, proper teacher, having his good and bad moments, moments of hype and days (years) of feeling hopeless.
Usually in action films like this one (remember Karate Kid?) a hero meets the teacher ready to take an apprentice and bestow his knowledge upon him. This is not the case. Master Shifu is a deeply disillusioned teacher whose favourite student turned into an evil monster (still badass, though) and he’s not been able to put his trust in any student since. He’s doing his duty all right, being an awesome kung fu master, but he’s not putting his soul into teaching, and he doesn’t really see his pupils as real persons (which actually results in high-spirited Tigress being jealous and yearning for Shifu’s approval).
It is Po, a hopeless panda who changes Shifu’s attitude and, as he quotes “brings him peace”. At first though, they have a very ill relationship, mostly due to Shifu’s efforts to train Po the way he trained other students and there is a difference between a monkey and a huge panda, after all, isn’t it? It is his old friend and mentor, Master Oogway, who asks him to believe in his new student’s potential. Shifu is reluctant at first, but he accidentally realizes that with teaching methods adjusted to an unusual student the whole educational process may actually make sense.
And, obviously, it does.
This film reminded me of one of most curious aspects of my job — I am always happy with ambitious and proficient students, I like them and enjoy the classes. But it’s those neglected and lazy ones who may bloom and surprise you, those you’ll be remembering with pride, those who will remember you. There are those students, once in a while, practically made for you to teach and if you’ve ever had this powerful yet inexplicable relationship, you know what I mean when I say: you’re a teacher only because of those few special students. I’ve met less than ten of them, girls and boys. I still keep in touch with most of them and I hope to meet many more such hidden jewels.
However, usually we just do our job, mastering our students’ skills and making sure they properly pronounce “beach”. Our days may vary but sooner or later we find our job tedious and meaningless. We run out of ideas, our students don’t feel like learning, and it’s probably a foggy, rainy day to add to our misery. So, whenever we feel down we may just watch Kung Fu Panda, think of Master Shifu and, well, if he achieved his inner peace maybe so can we?
Oh, and in the film he’s a red panda. Now, red pandas are awesome: they’re really cute and somewhat neurotic.
Pretty much like teachers 🙂