Brandi J. Clark

Writer and Educator

John Hughes Reminds Us to SEE the Students in our Classrooms

This post is different than my usual. It is from my 50,000 word manuscript created by free-writing on my love for writing nonfiction. Not sure what to do with the manuscript yet but I wanted to share snippets of it.

Today’s snippet is the importance of seeing and being seen.

It was a couple of years ago that I had this insight. Perhaps you made this connection earlier in life but I continue to live near power lines which could account for my delay.

Any hey!

John Hughes!

Yes! Well, I was watching my favorite movie again. Sixteen Candles. The one with Jake Ryan!

Can you imagine this image outside school as all the buses pull away?

Jake Ryan waves.

I whisper “Me?” (pointing to myself)

Yah! You! (says Jake)

I run to the car and throw my “teacher” bags in the trunk.

We drive away quickly and I wave to the teachers on supervision.

They mouth, “Is that him?”

I nod.

Anyway…back to the point.

All the movies I love and hold dear are about seeing and being seen. This is important because learning is about relationships. For some of our students, we are the ones who can make a difference in their lives because we see them, the core of them, without the labels and the “baggage” they might bring with them.

Here are my running thoughts on this idea using examples from John Hughes movies.

Sixteen Candles

In Sixteen Candles, no one sees Sam. Her family forgets her birthday. She is displaced out of her room. Farmer Ted hits on her, he sees her but not in a way that Sam values. Gradually Farmer Ted’s obsession develops into a friendship. I don’t think she can believe that he is the only one who gets her. How can that be? In the end, she sees him too. It takes a while for the barriers to disappear, to break down and when that happens, they both feel valued as their true selves.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink, operates this way too. Initially Darcie is seen by Duckie. But for most of the film she doesn’t see Duckie. Darcie continues to look past him and dismiss him as “cute” as he tries so hard for her to choose him. Even flinging himself at her in the record store. She still doesn’t see him. Darcie finally sees him at the end when he saves her from a broken heart.

Alternatively, Steph (the rich friend of Andrew McCarthy’s character) is not seen by Darcie and he does not understand this. He thinks that he should be seen because he is rich. He thinks that “who wouldn’t want that”. He projects his riches. He is not seen. He gets frustrated. The girls that are attracted to him, see the shallowness and like what they see. Steph tries to be seen by Darcie and uses cruelty to get what he wants. He has few tools for engaging with others. He throws into the ring everything that he has and fails.

Breakfast Club

This movie is full of characters who are not “seen” as human beings. They are living labels projected onto them: jock, nerd, reject, princess, freak. And that is how they are seen. None of them are endeared to those labels and feel stifled by them. Even the principal does not “see” them. He treats them as he “sees” them how everyone sees them. They don’t like that. Until they are honest with themselves they realize what they have been doing all this time to each other. When they finally see each other, emotions emerge and true personalities are revealed.

Uncle Buck

This happens again in Uncle Buck.  He is not “seen”. It is so bad that his picture in the wedding photo is folded over. It is so bad that his nieces and nephew don’t even know about him. His oldest niece Tia, is also in pain. No one sees her. Her mom ignores her. It’s not what she wants. She gravitates towards others that see her false self, like Bug. She thinks he sees her but he doesn’t. In fact, he sees something else. He is shallow. He does not see the core of her. He sees that she can fulfil what he wants and that is what happens until Buck, who sees her for the first time, the first family member to do so, he saves her.  This is the same for Buck. Clarise, his girlfriend sees him but is frustrated that he doesn’t seem to see her. In the end the whole family finally sees each other.

Home Alone

No one sees Kevin. As we all know the famous line: “We forgot Kevin!” Forced to protect his home, he begins to see himself as an amazing problem solver and an important part of the family. At the end, it is his strength that is revealed to others. They “see” him too.

Dirty Dancing (Not a John Hughes movie…but still has the same ideas)

Baby is seen by her father but his lens keeps her from growing and maturing. His sight is stuck. He thinks that she should continue to be sheltered and stay safe while seemingly encouraging her to go into the Peace Corps. Unprepared by the way, but her father thinks it is an honorable thing to do. But Baby’s world collides with the dance instructors. The dance instructors only see each other. They protect each other. Johnny slowly begins to “see” Baby before anyone else. She is confused and has trouble identifying the changes in herself. But she becomes stronger even when she realizes that her dad has lost “sight” of her. Yet it is the old cherished Baby, not the new Francis. Then near the end, there she is in the corner. Not seen. Johnny realizes that he is the only one who sees Baby, and he owes it to her, because she saw him for the first time. He wants everyone to see Baby. There is that epic scene where Baby is lifted. They all see her. Especially her dad. He sees grown up Baby, he sees Johnny like she sees him. Everyone is changed by these events and they begin to move forward.


Make sure you see the students in your classroom.  I do.  I coach in a small school with over a few hundred kids. I know them all by first and last name. I know their voices, without mention of name when they do prayer over the announcements. I see them. I tell them I see them, when walking in the halls, when they are engaged in learning and our walks in the field during supervision. I remember all the little and big things in their lives and check in often. I pride myself in knowing the kids I work with. If I don’t know, I ask and they in turn, let me know. They in turn begin to see me. If I am gone for professional development, they ask, “Where were you?” If my schedule changes they ask, “why haven’t I seen you in awhile.” They see me I see them and that my friends is a lesson brought to you by John Hughes!

Love Coach Brandi!

About Brandi Clark