Movie Review: The Kindergarten Teacher (2018, Maggie Gyllenhaal):What to do with a gifted child poet
By Maya Nalawade
The Kindergarten Teacher, a 2018 film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, brings up an essential question for any parent, teacher, or mentor. How should we nurture our gifted youth, and to what extent can we nurture them without crossing social, family, or personal boundaries? First, a quick summary (spoilers included). In the film, Gyllenhaal plays Lisa, a kindergarten teacher who starts noticing her student, Jimmy, reciting his written poems. She is captivated by his words and tries her best to get his poems heard. She starts writing down and logging every poem he has. In efforts to let the world know about Jimmy’s talents, she starts defying his parent’s orders and takes him to late-night poetry readings. Jimmy’s parents are happy about their child’s gift but want him to live a normal life. They aren’t thrilled about some of the activities Lisa suggests. This leads Lisa to feel that the rest of the world doesn’t understand or care about Jimmy’s talent. Going to the extreme, she kidnaps Jimmy in an effort to nurture him herself. She is eventually caught, and Jimmy is returned to his family. In the final scene, Jimmy sits in a police car and tells the police, “I have a poem.” They brush his comment aside. This last scene is when the logic behind Lisa’s actions hits the viewer. Throughout the movie, the viewer may feel that Lisa was right to take an interest in Jimmy’s talent but wrong to kidnap and push him against his will. However, the last scene insinuates that Lisa may have had a point because no one else will care about his poems. I think that mentors and parents should encourage a gifted child, poet or otherwise, to pursue their talents outside of the classroom. This can include extracurriculars, writing projects, writing at home, and enrichment activities. Inside the classroom, try to get them to use different platforms such as using online activities, written journals, or spoken words.
However, it’s important to check in with the student and make sure they want to carry on or are comfortable with any event. The student shouldn't develop burn-out or grow disillusioned with what they’re doing. Also, mentors and teachers, you should comply with the rules and guidelines of the parents. It’s their kids at the end of the day. Prompt: In light of "The Kindergarten Teacher," is there any teacher or mentor who has nurtured you as a writer?
Maya Nalawade is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and a blogger at Voices.