Thursday, February 17, 2011

Waiting for Superman

I know a lot of teachers read my blog.  So, this post is especially for you. But really, I think we all should be interested in this.

Have you seen "Waiting for Superman"?
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. 
So, be reminded. 

And watch the movie.

That's all.


  1. Another blogger I follow made the point that he felt really hopeful after watching the movie because he felt like what he does really matters.

    I want to see it, although I do have a lot of questions about charter schools (which I understand are a big part of this film?). If I had the parental support that many charter schools seem to have, things in my classroom might go a bit differently, too.

  2. I will need to see this. I was just talking about it on Tuesday - a co-worker of mine has been reading the book also by the same guy, with the same title, and was pretty bothered by some of the things that were said, feeling like there were no statistical facts about what was being said and that a lot of generalizations were being made. She hadn't finished the book yet, so she wasn't sure if she was going to be as ticked when she finished as when she started... I'll have to ask her about it. Either way, I'm curious for sure now!

  3. Sounds like it touches on a lot of hot points. I am sad to see good teachers burn out after 5 years because of all the pressures on them and the confines of the system. I recently watched the documentary 'Race to Nowhere' and saw the level of stress placed on the kids and teachers these days. It is hard but I am also a firm believer in the public school system.

  4. Noooo! I just wrote a long comment that ended up somewhere in cyber land. The short of it was...

    I loved the movie! I totally agree with what a difference a good teacher can make. Each and every day you (and my high school teacher husband!) are making a difference in the lives of so many. You may not be teaching a future president. But you are probably teaching a future teacher, future mother, future pastor, heck, even a future store clerk. But they will hopefully make a huge difference in the lives of many because of the lessons they learned from you and other amazing teachers. Just as a waterfall begins with a single drop, so can an amazing world be made because of the love of one great teacher. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL THAT YOU DO!

  5. Awesome, I would love to see this movie sometime! It was really cool to read about your passion for teaching--it sounds like a calling and I bet you have already touched so many lives. =)

  6. Hi! I stumbled upon your blog from another blog but I don't remember whose. But, I added it to my blog favorite list because you were a teacher!

    I am in my last semester of classes and student teach this fall. I haven't seen this movie yet. But, I have already felt the struggle of standing up for public schools and their importance of having good teachers, good curriculum, and good public support. And, to not even be a teacher yet - this is disheartening.


Your comments are what makes this thing fun! I LOVE to hear from you and do my best to respond to everyone! THANK YOU!

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