The documentary “American Teacher” focused on the low pay of teachers when compared to their peers working in the private sector with similar educational backgrounds, and the back breaking demands on most teachers (working an average 60 hours or more a week – for example, I often worked a 100 hour week often starting at 6AM when the gates to the school were unlocked and staying as late as 11:00 PM when the alarms were turned on and the gates locked).
While the film was not perfect because it didn’t mention the role of parents and other pressures teachers face, it offered a more realistic view of education in America than “Waiting for Superman” did.
Points made that many of the critical reviews of this documentary ignored were:
1. 46 percent of public school teachers leave the profession within the first five years of being in the classroom.
2. Salaries and stress are among the top reasons teachers say they leave.
3. 62 percent of our nation’s teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom-like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, or bartending—to be able to afford to teach.
From a few positive reviews of “American Teacher” —
Mark Phillips of the Washington Post said, “A film about education that gets it exactly right… Powerful and compelling. Every policymaker should be required to see American Teacher”
Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News said, “This heartbreaking and essential look into the lives of those who put so much into educating other people’s children ought to be seen by everyone concerned about the fate of the public school system, and the nation as a whole.” – “Sobering and powerful.” – Ernest Hardy, Village Voice
Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times said, “A heartfelt, bittersweet portrait.”
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, “As we watch the individuals in American Teacher struggle with the burdens of the system places on them, it’s hard not to feel like crying, both for them…and our national culture.”
Note: I also spent thousands of dollars for educational materials over the years that I taught, and for a few years, I also worked a second job to pay the bills in addition to working summers in jobs such as construction, since I wasn’t paid as a teacher during the ten weeks of the summer break.
Continued on April 2, 2012 in The American Teacher “is not” Waiting for Superman – Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).
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