But then… there’s the OTHER side of teachers. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that practice tough love at every opportunity. The ones where the kid gloves come off and they’re gonna make your life a living hell! These types of people are thankfully rare – but they’re the ones you wish you don’t get stuck in a classroom/dojo/training camp anytime soon!
Fiction has a lot of strict – and downright mean – teachers, and today I’m looking at five of those tough teachers. These are the kinda guys (and girls) where the words “gentle” don’t apply. And whilst not all of them are necessarily bad people – they certainly aren’t pushovers!
So pay attention class! We’re looking at the Top Five Tough Teachers! Listed in no real order. PAY ATTENTION AT THE BACK THERE!!!
Stick - Daredevil
A blind martial artist that came to Matt when he was young (after he had lost his sight), he trained him to master his abilities and learned how to fight. And he didn’t pull his punches either! Many a time young Matt was on his backside with an injury before he learned to fight back. In him, Matt almost looked at him as a father figure, having lost his own – but when he tried to show his appreciation, Stick just saw him as weak and walked away from him, only returning years later when Matt was an adult.
Stick portrays a warrior like mentality, wanting Matt to become hard to the world. And when he sees emotion in Matt, he becomes disgusted and considers this a weakness. He has a really cynical and bleak outlook on life and refuses to show any emotion – one has to wonder what happened in his life to have such a cold exterior. However, despite his cruel ways and utter disdain for Matt’s lack of a killer instinct, he does seem to have at least a small amount of respect for him after Matt and him get into a fight. It seems to hint that he is preparing him for something greater.
Yoda and Mr Miyagi he is not – Stick is a hardened warrior that is cold to the world, but despite being blind clearly sees the darkness that inherits it. But whilst he has given into the darkness, Matt has managed to pull himself back just enough to keep his moral standing, refusing to become like him. A tough trainer, yes – but in the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you have to be tough to survive. And few are tougher than Stick!
Izumi Curtis - Full Metal Alchemist
One of the most powerful alchemists in the series, the Elric brothers come to her to be trained in the ways of alchemy. At first she scoffs at the idea, but eventually agrees to it – but not before putting them through their paces. The first test is to leave them on an island to fend for themselves (remember these two are only kids at this point), causing them to nearly starve to death! And even after that she doesn’t give them any less slack with their training!
Naturally, Ed and Al are terrified of her – and not without good reason. She can explode at the drop of a hat if you piss her off! Despite what she says, she is no ordinary housewife! Even though she has some kind of sickness (and vomits blood on occasion), she will kick your ass and leave you in a pool of your own blood – with or without alchemy. Heck, during training, she’s even able to fight off Al and Ed whilst she reads a book! That is awesome!
But despite her toughness, she does have a gentle side to her – and she does care for the brothers. Even after learning they created the Ultimate Taboo, and she dismisses them as students, she still harbours respect and love for them. I probably shouldn’t say too much for spoilers – safe to say she has a really tragic story. This could probably be why she has a mothering attitude towards them – albeit a strict one.
There seems to be a running theme of tough teachers in Anime/Manga – but Izumi stands out because as well as being strong, she can also be caring. In many ways she is as much a mother to them as she is a teacher. Sure she’s rough and downright scary at times, but she isn’t without emotion. In fact, she’s probably one of the only people on this list that actually care for their students. She’s also one of the strongest female characters in the series – both in character and physical power. And it’s because of this that I love her to bits.
Ms Trunchbull - Matilda
Where do I even begin with this bitch? When I read Matilda she TERRIFIED me as a child – as I’m sure other kids may have been terrified. No other character on this list encapsulates all the fear of authority for children than this monster – who in the real world would have been put in prison years ago!
The headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School, Miss Trunchbull is the complete opposite of Miss Honey, Matilda’s kindly teacher. In fact the two couldn’t be any more different! Miss Trunchbull is an over-powerful bull of a woman with incredible strength and a deadly attitude to boot! Despite being a teacher, Miss Trunchbull couldn’t care less about “teaching”, rather she uses her authoritative position to bully and even torture any poor child that displeases her. In one scene she pulls up a child by their ears when they can’t solve a simple maths problem, and in another she throws a child away just for having pig tails! She utterly despises children (stating that she was never a child herself) and rules over them like a tyrant. Only Matilda has the strength to stand up to her and show her for what she really is – a bully.
Miss Trunchbull is pretty much the teacher you hope you never get! If Hitler was a school teacher, this is pretty much what he would be like! All this horror and evil is perfectly captured in the Matilda film – where she is played by Pam Ferris (who a friend of mine has met and she says she’s an absolute sweetheart in real life). Pam Ferris is pitch perfect in capturing all the sheer aggression and hatred that this character eludes. She’s probably the most evil character on this list if I’m being honest and the one with the least redeeming features!
Tough doesn’t even begin to describe this character – Devil incarnate I think will be a better word! Pray you don’t get transferred to her school!
Terence Fletcher - Whiplash
After introducing Andrew Neimen to his studio band, Andrew thinks that he has hit the big time working alongside such an acclaimed conductor. He soon realises that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side with Fletcher – who demands nothing less than absolute perfection. He bullies, berates – and even physically abuses his students if they are just a second off, or just slightly out of tune. And heaven help you if you can’t keep the tempo – or you might get a drum cymbal flying towards your head!
And yet, for all his cruelty, Fletcher can be a very funny character. He’s extremely witty and there are times when his lines will make you burst out laughing – only for him to do something really horrible moments later. The scenes involving him and Andrew are some of the most tense scenes on film. As Andrew pushes himself harder, Fletcher seems to revel in his misery.
So why is Fletcher such a dick? Well, this next bit COULD be considered a spoiler – so if you haven’t seen the film yet, you might want to skip ahead a little bit.
Well, he believes that perfection can only be achieved through suffering, relating an anecdote of Charlie Parker who had a drum cymbal thrown at his head and then went on to become one of the best jazz musicians in the world. To him, there are no words more harmful to jazz than “good job.” However, his extreme teachings eventually lead an old student of his to commit suicide and Andrew helps him get fired. In the end, the two come to a battle during a jazz concert – and Andrew proves himself to be every bit the amazing drummer he believed he was.
Fletcher is just the right about of comedy and brutality, perfectly played by J.K Simmons. I always believed he was a highly underrated actor and this just proves his worth as an actor. His performance is so intense that you’re frightened to move, but then later he’ll crack a wise ass comment to calm you down. And yet somehow, he may secretly be a genius – as his abuse causes Andrew to reach his true potential in the end. That being said, I won’t be signing up to any of his classes anytime soon! I don’t think I can keep his tempo.
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman - Full Metal Jacket
Quite honestly, this guy is one of the most quotable characters in film history. Every word he says has “meme” written all over it! And many of his quotes are!
The drill sergeant on Parris Island, Hartman is the very definition of “Tough Teacher”. He speaks in a commanding and powerful voice, which drips disdain with every single syllable. He treats his recruits like scum until they gain his approval and isn’t above abusing them or beating them. Private Pyle is quick to learn his wrath when he constantly fails at even the simplest of tasks, often made a laughing stock out of from Hartman.
Drill Sergeants have a habit of not exactly being the friendliest of people – but we kinda can understand that. After all, in any military role, you have to be ready to fight at the drop of the hat – and you can’t have weakness in any unit. But Hartman takes austerity to a whole new level with his putdowns and bullying nature. One could argue that he’s trying to get the best out of his troops – but there is a limit to what one person can take, surely? Hartman even turns the rest of the troops against Pyle when he makes too many mistakes – punishing them for his screw ups. This ends up coming back to bite him in the ass – anyone who has seen the film knows what I mean.
What I think makes Hartman such a terrifying, yet powerful character, was that the actor R. Lee Ermey actually WAS a drill sergeant before he became an actor. In fact, he was originally only brought in as a reference for the previous actor – but his performance was so great that Kubrick fired the other guy and hired him. Ermey brings his past experience and uses it to great effect here. In fact he adlibbed much of his own dialogue – which just adds to the sheer horror the other actors have to face. Honestly, I would NOT want to be stuck in a room with this man! I’m sure Ermey’s a nice guy in real life, but you can’t deny his acting is pretty intense.
Hartman is a legendary figure amongst film lovers for his quotable lines and monstrous statue. As a teacher, he tries to bring out the monster in his soldiers – seeking absolute perfection and refusing to take anything less. He set the blueprint for characters like Fletcher! And just like Fletcher, he can make you laugh and cringe in terror in equal measure.
Don’t believe me? Then I have a question – what is your major malfunction numb***s?
Phew! Those are five people I would not want to be stuck in a classroom (or ANY room for that matter) with. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice my tempo for my music class. Goodness knows I don’t need any more cymbals stuck in my skull!
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!