Saturday, May 12, 2012

Film Review: American Teacher

Michele Wilson-Morris

American Teacher, produced and directed by Vanessa Roth, is a documentary that provides a fascinating view and reality check about the teaching profession in America, addressing the issues of teachers who are exceptional, and why they either struggle to remain in the profession, or choose to move on to greener pastures. The fact is, the teaching profession is not viewed with as much respect in America as it is in other countries, and teachers, their families, and school children suffer as a result. In Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, where teachers are revered and there is a cultural respect for the profession, only the best graduating students are recruited by the government for teaching positions, and it is considered an honor to be selected. These teachers receive 2 1/2 times what U.S. teachers do for classroom materials, and they are much more highly compensated, with better benefits. Consequently, these countries hold the top 3 spots in the world in terms of student achievement. Also, very few teachers leave the profession in these countries or experience the "burnout" that most American teachers do.

American Teacher delves into many topics that affect U.S. teachers, and shows that they don't have the easy jobs with great hours that most Americans think they do. In fact, many of them have second jobs just to make ends meet, and work weekends as well just to be able to keep up with classroom work. Yes, there are teachers out there who shouldn't be in the profession, and those teachers should be dealt with. But the majority of teachers are in the profession because it is their passion, and they bring creativity, love, and a desire to excel and nurture their students into the best and most confident young people they can be, and they should be rewarded and held in high esteem for doing so. This film is another that I highly recommend as a "must see" for everyone, as it's a problem that affects everyone, whether we wish to believe so or not.

Whatever your opinion of teachers is, American Teacher will almost certainly provide new insights and make you reevaluate your position. It is a highly enjoyable, but reflective piece that hits home on many levels.

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