First, this contains some low-key spoilers! Second, Stranger Things is an awesome show! There were so mainly magical moments for me – the 80s touchstones, the soundtrack, the actors… I thoroughly enjoyed the 8-episode ride this summer and I cannot wait for the next installment.
As a teacher, one of the things that really stood out for me was the middle school teacher character – Mr. Clarke (played admirably by actor Randall P. Havens). What an inspirational character. Here’s one exchange Mr. Clarke had with one of his students over the phone (SPOILERS AHEAD!):
Mr. Clarke: Hello?
Dustin Henderson: Mr Clarke, it’s Dustin.
Mr. Clarke: Dustin? Is everything okay?
Dustin Henderson: Ye-yeah, I just, I, I have a… science question.
Mr. Clarke: It’s ten o’clock on Saturday. Why don’t we pick this up on…
Dustin Henderson: Do you know anything about sensory deprivation tanks? Specifically how to build one?
Mr. Clarke: Sensory deprivation…? Wh-what is this for?
Dustin Henderson: Fun.
Mr. Clarke: Okay. Well. Why don’t we talk about it Monday, after school. Okay?…
Dustin Henderson: You always say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find.
First of all, a teacher who is okay with a student calling him at home?
On a Saturday?
At ten o’clock at night??!
Oh, and let’s not forget that Mr. Clarke was engaged in some “Netflix and chill” with his significant other while this call was taking place. Now that is an educator!
Next, I love that Mr. Clarke has such a cool proverb/maxim (“…we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find.”). If that doesn’t scream critical thinking, what does?
Here’s a link to a scene where Mike, Dustin and Lucas approach Mr. Clarke at a memorial with more questions.
Again, Mr. Clarke takes the time to sit down with the boys and answer their questions – even the more more bizarre queries – in a direct and open manner. You never get the sense that he considers the boys to be his intellectual or social juniors.
And, he seems to get their pop-culture references (especially in terms of the game Dungeons & Dragons) indicating that he makes an effort to really get to know his students.
There’s another scene where the boys sneak into school with the character Eleven. Mr. Clarke catches the boys trying to enter the Audio Visual Room. Instead of reaming them out for not attending the assembly, he gently asks what they are doing. Then, when the boys lie about needing time to grieve, Mr. Clarke gives them his own set of school keys and tells them that the CB radio set is theirs for the day.
What?! How understanding and cool can a teacher be?
Throughout the show, Mike, Dustin and Lucas demonstrate behaviors and attitudes such as resilience, curiosity, problem-solving, creativity, self direction, social justice, and scientific and communication literacy. If you were lost in some “upside down”, these are exactly the characteristics you would want your rescuers to possess.
And how did they get this way? Well, the show isn’t all that specific about the boys’ families or upbringing. But, having a teacher like Mr. Clarke couldn’t hurt.
This year, let’s all try to be like Mr. Clarke. Let’s try to be open. Positive. Flexible. Let’s listen. Be patient. Care. And trust.
And, if you can, rock a cool mustache!
Here’s to Stranger Things 2 and having an awesome school year!