Teacher Meets World: The Collected Wisdom of Mr. Feeny

| July 8, 2014
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Photo: BrainTeezz

By Maria Judnick

It’s easy to list off the most memorable moments in TV history: “Who shot JR” on Dallas, M*A*S*H and Cheers’ final episodes, even Charles and Diana’s royal wedding. But, for millennials, the final episode of Boy Meets World absolutely must be added to that list. No BMW fan in their late 20s or early 30s can recall, without tears, the moment when Mr. George Feeny, teacher and mentor, offered his final weekly advice before dismissing his beloved students into the wider world: “Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”

Boy Meets World’s seven year run from 1993-2000 came at a time in my life when I was just as awkward, geeky, and endearingly naïve as the young Cory Matthews. And while I cared about the drama between Cory and Topanga and Shawn and Angela, laughed at Eric’s antics, and, later, rolled my eyes along with Jack and Rachel, I mostly tuned in to see Mr. Feeny. While I was lucky enough to receive guidance from loving, supportive parents (who also both happened to be teachers), I still marveled at Feeny’s ability to learn from any situation.

With a mentor like that, it’s no surprise that, 14 years and one revamp later, Cory has grown into the mentor’s role and become a teacher himself in Girl Meets World (which premiered June 27th). The first episode featured Cory assuring his daughter Riley that he will be there as she navigates her world in New York City. But, to the delight of this viewer and fellow teacher, Mr. Feeny still mysteriously appears at the end of the episode to offer Cory his approval. While the season’s sneak peek promised new schoolwork, new challenges, and new discoveries, here’s hoping Cory remembers lessons from Philadelphia’s favorite educator like these:

Learning Isn’t Just Found In Books

Although early seasons relied heavily on connections between Feeny’s lesson plans and the week’s message, the show thankfully moved away from that setup. After all, Feeny cared less about grades (aside from Topanga’s relentless focus on her perfect GPA) than about his students’ growth. To get results, Feeny relied on metaphors, thoughtful one-line retorts, and special out-of-class “projects.”

A Good Friend Is An Honest One

Mr. Feeny always said what he thought, but only if it helped the situation. And while Amy and Alan Matthews didn’t always want to hear their neighbor’s advice on raising their children, they knew George spoke the truth. He defended Cory and Topanga’s young love, badgered Eric “ten thousand times” about going to college, and encouraged Shawn to overcome his chaotic upbringing. (On the other hand, George delightfully never feared telling students when they were being “morons.”)

Be Yourself

Sure, there were moments when Mr. Feeny’s students decided they’d had enough of the veteran educator (seasons two through four featuring the leather-clad, poetry-reading, motorcycle-riding Jonathan Turner come to mind), but George Feeny didn’t care. Other teachers would have resorted to flashy new methods for popularity, but George stayed consistent. Of course, as a seasoned teacher, he’d learned to pull a few tricks himself.

Embrace Change And Take Risks

Feeny taught every grade level, every subject. Yes, he had the same students year after year (except for the rows of extras), but the man needed a lot of hutzpah to create all those lesson plans, even if it took a while for students to understand them.

Listen To Your Heart And Follow It

For a while, it seemed like every season cliffhanger involved Feeny planning his retirement and moving away from Philadelphia. And, yet, every season he’d return, having realized that his home and his heart was with his adopted family and in the classroom. Although he often preached to his students to follow their hearts, in season six, it took a lot of prodding from Eric before Feeny found love with Dean Bolander (the actor’s real-life wife).

Success Takes Time

It took seven years, 158 episodes, countless heart-to-heart talks, a marriage, and a move to New York for George Feeny to finally teach Cory Matthews how to navigate his world.

Love Changes Lives

And, last but not least, Mr. Feeny taught us that love sometimes takes on a unique language:

And sometimes it doesn’t need to be expressed for it to be felt.

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KQED Pop is a daily blog edited by Emmanuel Hapsis that critically examines the social and cultural impact of music, movies, television, advertisements, fashion, the internet and all the other collective experiences that make us laugh, cringe and cry. We focus on local, national and international experiences with a Bay Area lens. We don’t do reviews.

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