It is a documentary on the American Education System. It's tough. It's good... But it hits hard.
The opening scene struck me: The creator, Davis Guggenheim, says that all his life he'd been an advocate for public schools; until... he had kids of his own. And, suddenly, his personal beliefs mattered less than his fears about the education his children might or might not receive. So today, he drives past three public schools every morning to drop his children off at an expensive private school.
I'm a product of public schools. I've devoted my life (quite literally, really) to the public school system. And, frankly, I think both have been rather fruitful. But, I'm one of the lucky ones. I grew up in, and teach in, an excellent school district. Who knows where I will be in five years (wow, that sounds close) when Baby C is starting school. Suddenly, things look a lot different.
The movie focuses on student achievement, graduation rates, school lotteries, teacher performance & tenure, and tracking. It makes you think.
It reminds me why I'm a teacher --- because I really do believe in the public school system, and I really do believe that I can influence the future and the world by the role I play in the classroom every day. It also reminds me how blessed I've been in life. And, it reminds me of the reality of the world we live in.
There's a call for good teachers. They are really our only hope. Guggenheim recalled his own "superman" experience, "In the 10th grade, I had a teacher who changed my life - he was hilarious and fun and, even though I was a C-minus student at the time, he saw great things in me. If I didn't have a teacher like that, I wouldn't be a filmmaker now, I wouldn't be a storyteller, I wouldn't be invested in the world or care so much about our public schools."
There ARE good teachers out there: teachers that love their job, that care about their students, that are willing to invest the extra energy in creativity. Please don't lose hope. ESPECIALLY, if you are one of those teachers.
Teaching isn't easy. We run up against road blocks all the time. Budget cuts. Standardized tests. More obligations and less time. I admit, it's been a hard year for me too. But, ultimately, we are doing one of the most important jobs in the world. Because, as the movie states: "We've tried money, passing laws, and the latest reforms; but, the one thing those who work in the trenches know, is that you can't have a great school without great teachers...Look past all the noise and the debate, and it's easy to see: nothing will change without them." Man, what a calling! We don't hear that enough. We forget it too easily.