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A Tournament of Teachers: Mischief-Makers From Film

It’s that time of year again! Advancement Courses is thrilled to announce our fifth-annual Tournament of Teachers, a bracket-style game modeled after college basketball’s big spring tournament.

This year, we’re hosting a face-off between film and literature’s most lovable and loathsome mischief-makers. We’re asking teachers to tell us which of these incorrigible, fictional students they’d most want to have in their classroom by filling out a head-to-head bracket.

Submit your bracket anytime between March 11 and 20 for a chance to win up to $1,000 in prizes. Then, from March 21 to 30, you can vote every day to determine which mischief-makers will advance to the next round.

The top mischief-maker will be announced on March 31. Afterward, we’ll share the winners of the bracket competition. Here’s a breakdown of the prizes:

First place: $1,000 Amazon gift card

Second place: $500 Amazon gift card

Third place: $100 Amazon gift card (five entrants will win this prize)

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for round-by-round updates and more!

The Competitors: Mischief-Makers From Film

Biff Tannen (Back to the Future)

Anti-cheating and plagiarism measures were invented because of students like Biff Tannen. He bullies and intimidates his peers to do his homework for him or help him cheat his way through tests. However, when confronted with authority figures like Mr. Strickland, Biff turns out to not be as tough as he comes off when his gang is around.

Regina George (Mean Girls)

The ultimate “mean girl,” Regina George manages to bully every girl in her school — plus some of her teachers. Most educators have witnessed the destructive power of name-calling, cliques, and impossible beauty standards, but Regina manages to wield these common problems in a way that drives most of the females in her grade to physical violence.

Bart Simpson (The Simpsons)

A perpetual underachiever, Bart Simpson would probably benefit from learning to have a “growth mindset.” When it comes to his bad grades, he declares himself to be “dumb as a post” and is more apt to occupy himself with teaching other students creative insults and rude gestures than trying to reach new academic heights.

John Bender (The Breakfast Club)

Sometimes the student who’s prickliest on the surface is actually masking a deep fear of vulnerability and past pain. That’s certainly the case with John Bender, the bad boy whose hard exterior may just melt over the course of a long Saturday locked in the school library with a group of loveable misfits.

Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Ferris Bueller isn’t necessarily a bad kid; he just thinks of school as being more “optional” than his parents and teachers do. However, when Dean of Students Ed Rooney makes it his life’s business to catch Ferris in his truancy, Ferris manages to become the educator’s worst nightmare.

Helga Pataki (Hey Arnold!)

Tough, sarcastic, and bossy on the outside and sensitive on the inside, Helga Pataki would likely be a rewarding challenge for any teacher. Although she can be short-tempered and bullying toward her peers, she also shows high academic aptitude and a unique gift for poetry — when she’s willing to let her guard down.

Dennis Mitchell (Dennis the Menace)

Despite his nickname, Dennis Mitchell rarely sets out to be a bad kid. Usually, he starts out wanting to help, but his enthusiasm, distractibility, or plain old misunderstanding leads to disaster for the adults in his life, especially poor Mr. Wilson.

Sid Phillips (Toy Story)

Have you ever had a student whose artistic exploits or STEM projects are just a little…creepy? Then you know what it’s like to teach Sid Philips. Though his Frankenstein-style toy experiments certainly show some creativity, he’s also a poster child for the need for some SEL in your curriculum.

Scut Farkus (A Christmas Story)

When you advise students that the best thing you can do with a bully is stand up to them, Scott “Scut” Farkus is your case in point. Though you certainly wouldn’t recommend Ralphie’s method for making Scut back down, this mischief-maker’s rise and fall lends credence to the idea that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Fred O’Bannion (Dazed and Confused)

Cruel, aggressive, bigoted, and violent, Fred O’Bannion takes pride in being an upperclassman —  not because of his academic accomplishments, but because he now feels empowered to hunt down and beat up incoming freshmen. In fact, he’s excited to fail and repeat his senior year because it allows him to keep up his reign of terror two years in a row.

Buzz McCallister (Home Alone)

If you have to have a bully in your class, Buzz McCallister is the kind you want. Although on the surface, Buzz is impatient and insulting toward his younger brother, deep down he cares about Kevin and is willing to drop his tough-guy persona when it really counts.

Billy Hargrove (Stranger Things)

“Hurt people hurt people.” Teachers have seen this pattern play out too many times in their classroom. Billy Hargrove is a prime example of this truism. He suffers abuse at his father’s hands and then turns around and does the same to others, until an encounter with true evil wakes him up to his destructive patterns and he stands up for the greater good.

Jeff Spicoli (Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

Jeff Spicoli is the truant-hating Mr. Hand’s worst nightmare. Jeff doesn’t necessarily set out to drive Mr. Hand insane; he just cares more about surfing and getting stoned than he does about anything school-related. Mr. Hand, however, doesn’t seem to know anything about authentic learning or engaging students based on their interests; instead, he spends most of the movie trying to force Jeff into learning history his way.

Angelica Pickles (Rugrats)

Whether you teach kindergarteners or high schoolers, you’ve watched the same dynamic play out: One student has a natural gift for leadership, but thanks to their immaturity, their sway over other kids quickly turns from leadership to abuse. Angelica Pickles follows just such a pattern, and because of this, she remains oblivious to her own flaws and foibles (most notably her tone-deaf singing voice).

Johnny Lawrence (The Karate Kid)

Johnny Lawrence is a tough example of what can happen when a talented kid falls under bad mentorship. Under Sensei Kreese’s tutelage, Johnny learns to use his strength and karate skills to harm others and ruthlessly pursue victory in the big All-Valley Karate Tournament. Luckily, Johnny reforms his ways and later redeems the Cobra Kai dojo.

Roger Klotz (Doug)

Most educators understand the challenges of teaching a kid who’s been held back a grade. Well, Roger Klotz has had to repeat sixth grade not once, but at least three times, making him a teenager trapped in a world of tweens. Unfortunately, he uses his superior age and size to bully those around him rather than trying to pull up his grades.

So, which mischief-maker do you think teachers would most want to have in their class? Fill out a bracket with your predictions today for a chance to win. And don’t forget to check out the most popular mischief-makers from literature.

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