Using Goodbye, Mr. Chips in the Classroom
But why do stories about schools strike such a chord?...School is a place of initiations, discoveries, loneliness, sociability, tests and failures, full of dramatic possibility -- where friends are made (and betrayed), and all too easily enemies, where bullies and victims abound, where rules of appalling artificiality circumscribe our every move, just waiting to be broken, and where a few teachers loom large in our consciousness as ogres or objects of worship. Schools are places of protection from the adult world -- and prisons from which we escape into the adult world. They are places where we grow up -- or fail to.
-- Philip Horne,
film critic for the British newspaper The Telegraph
Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton is a classic work of English literature, as well as one of the best-known school stories. Although the story is set a century ago in an upper-class English boys' boarding school, its familiar characters and themes are accessible to anyone anywhere who has ever been a student.
The heartwarming tale of a teacher who comes to Brookfield Academy as an inexperienced young man and stays 63 years to become a cherished institution, Goodbye, Mr. Chips was internationally popular almost from the time it was first published as a book in 1934. Mr. Chips's Brookfield, like Harry Potter's Hogwarts and Holden Caulfield's Pency Prep, is a place that is at once both unique and universal. As James Hilton wrote a year after the book was first published,
I do take pride in the reception that America has given to my very English book; certainly no author could ever have enjoyed his correspondence more than I have during the past year. One feature has been the discovery of the original Mr. Chips in so many different parts of the world; and I believe those letters from readers have told the whole truth, and that my tribute to a great profession has fitted a great many members of it everywhere.
Despite being set in a time and place that may seem very far away, students will find that the questions Goodbye, Mr. Chips provokes about teaching, learning, schools, and growing up are as meaningful today as they were nearly 70 years ago.
In this teacher's guide, you will find questions and activities about the story and the film. To expand the study of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, you can use additional activities about school and the school experience. These sections address the "genre" of school stories -- a rich and relevant topic for students and the subject of many books and films -- as well as providing opportunities for personal writing and suggestions for more in-depth investigations of school topics.
About the Author
Born in 1900, James Hilton was a British journalist, theater reviewer, novelist, and screenwriter made famous by his bestsellers, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1933) and Lost Horizon (1933). Lost Horizon tells the story of a group of Western travelers whose plane crashes in the Himalayas in an idyllic kingdom Hilton named "Shangri-La" -- a term that subsequently entered the English language to describe a paradise on earth. Hilton saw both this novel and Goodbye, Mr. Chips made into popular and acclaimed films. In 1935 Hilton moved to Hollywood to write screenplays, including those of well-known films such as Random Harvest (1942) and Mrs. Miniver (1942). Hilton died in 1954.
About the Film
Goodbye, Mr. Chips stars Martin Clunes as Mr. Chips and Victoria Hamilton as Kathie. Directed by Stuart Orme, the script was written by Frank Delaney and Brian Finch. Goodbye, Mr. Chips has been adapted for film twice before. The 1939 version won Robert Donat the Academy Award for his portrayal of Mr. Chips, and also starred Greer Garson as Katherine. A 1969 version starring Peter O'Toole as Chips and Petula Clark as Kathie recast the story as a musical.
Teachers may want to show the 120-minute film in three parts:
Part One: From the opening of the film until just after Chips and Max Staefel say goodbye for the summer holidays.
Part Two: From Chips on holiday, walking through the woods, to just after Chips's students learn of Kathie's death.
Part Three: Resume the film until the end.
Off-Air Taping Rights
Educators may tape Goodbye, Mr. Chips and use it in the classroom for one year after broadcast.
Using Goodbye, Mr. Chips in the Classroom
Goodbye, Mr. Chips: Plot Summary | Time & Place: English Public Schools
Discussion Questions and Activities | Novel into Film
The School Experience: An Inquiry | Resources | Teacher's Guide Credits
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