What teachers & students can learn from Stranger Things


If you’re a classroom teacher then you can appreciate the value in a shared discourse as it pertains to the learning skills – those skills that speak to not only the culture of learning but importantly (and exhaustively to the point that it is now a cliche ) that are transferable to life outside of a respective classroom . When it comes to assessing learning skills the urgency, one can argue , differs greatly between the elementary and secondary panels. Whereas in elementary the learning skills are front and centre and in depth on the report card , in secondary , the importance is devalued with a visual and format preoccupation with individual student average and class median. Yet, we proclaim readily to our students that being responsible,  showing the ability to self-regulate, organize , effectively collaborate, show initiative , and to work independently with the hope to be autonomous) are the transferable skills needed for success in  a milieu of “Achieving Excellence.”


  • Do our students listen?
  • Are we, as teachers, speaking loud enough?

“Strangely,” this is where Stranger Things comes into play – a potential tool in providing a popular discourse for students to see and appreciate the value of the learning skills within the frames of teamwork and friendship. 

Much has been written about Stranger Things, Netflix’s pop- culture phenomenon, that has excited audiences with genuine thrills, pastiche and nostalgia. Beyond the meta references to 80s allure (any show that makes reference to Corey Harts “Sunglasses at Night ” is a must watch), at the core is a multi-layered program about the politics of teamwork and friendship.

Look closely at what we (and our students) can learn from the unwavering bond between Mike , Lucas, Dustin  Eleven and Will. As the mystery of Will’s disappearance deepens and the tensions elevated by Eleven’s back story heighten, the characters of Mike, Lucas and Dustin, speak to an incredibly mature framework for both teamwork and friendship.  The trio speak their minds and share emotions openly; they’ve created a culture of collaboration with expectations for behaviour and have established consequences; they have humility and extend apologies when needed and give forgiveness; they’re fiercely independent; they innovate, share responsibility , admit fault and most importantly, are, selfless. All are leaders who have created a culture or collaboration (not perfect by any means or ideal ) but one that evolves and encourages all of them to grow.  

If they were my students, what letter level assessment would these young kids receive when it comes to Ontario Learning Skills? Without hesitation an E across the board. In their success , it’s important to note that they’re not theoretically saving their friend – they’re in the practice of saving their friend. With this, where is the #lesson for us teachers and our students beyond understanding that these Goonie-esque boys are gifted in a number of ways? 

Although our classroom stakes would not be so dramatically high, the “doing” of the boys reminds us that activating learning is so critically important. The trio continuously seek  “theoretical” reasoning from their science teacher but build on his textbook knowledge by “doing.” It is in the doing that the learning skills are activated, mature and evolve.   In doing (not just copying off a over head or working in class from a textbook) we provoke our students to strive and grow in the skills needed to be successful in today’s competitive , complicated and diverse socio-economic milieu. As Ontario education thrives to scaffold students to have “entrepreneurial spirit”, we have to ensure that the stakes are high in our classroom. 

Now, I can appreciate that making a connection between education and Stranger Things is not faculty bound, however, because in reading and watching critically, we can all learning a little something about teamwork and friendship from from three boys and a girl who are trying to save their friend. 

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