Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Screening of new documentary "American Teacher"

On behalf of Sherman Elementary, I want to invite everyone to a special sneak-preview screening of the new documentary "American Teacher" at the Roxie Theater on October 12th at 6:30. After the film, there will be a Q&A with producer Ninive Calegari and cast members from the movie. Tickets are $20. Funds will be used to pay for teachers to attend the screening and to support other community events.

Narrated by Matt Damon, produced by Ninive Calegari and Dave Eggers and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, "American Teacher" chronicles the lives of four educators across the country as they reach different milestones in their careers. Told with humor and wit, the film delves into the realities and frustrations of the teaching profession and examines possibilities for reform and what we can do to invest in it for tomorrow.

You can order tickets through a link on our school website:

Thanks so much for your time. I hope to see you there!


  1. I don't think this is going to lead to real reform. I've seen Matt Damon and David Eggers interviewed. They don't believe in reforming seniority or tenure, and we don't have the money to transform teaching without that and already spend more than a lot of nations which spend less and get better results. DC proves you can't spend your way out. Real reform is merit pay and requiring everyone, even the poorest of the poor, spend more hours studying than watching TV. Everything else is just feel good smoke-filled coffeehouse bullshit and I don't want any part of it!

  2. Below I copied a review from the AV Club.

    By Alison Willmore September 29, 2011

    Director: Vanessa Roth, Brian McGinn

    American Teacher is basically a feature-length commercial on behalf of the teaching profession, attesting to how important and how difficult, underpaid, and underappreciated it is. The necessity of such an ad can be chalked up to the recent education-reform documentary barrage of The Cartel, The Lottery, and most prominently, Waiting For Superman, which all controversially criticize teachers’ unions and come out in favor of charter schools. American Teacher mostly avoids these murkier policy issues in favor of following a selection of idealistic teachers in their work and struggles, and interviewing countless others about the influence a good instructor can have on a child. The film is relentlessly one-sided enough to become tiring, but it’s impossible not to feel for the main characters, who all love what they do while continually being forced to question how feasible it is.

    Brooklyn-based Jamie Fidler returns to work just six weeks after having a baby—she’s out of maternity leave, and she and her husband need the income too much for her to take unpaid time off. San Franciscan Jonathan Dearman takes up real estate after he finds it too challenging to support a family on his teacher’s salary. Harvard grad Rhena Jasey leaves her public-school position for a place at New York’s Equity Project Charter School, also because of the lure of better pay and the chance, as she puts it, to be able to afford takeout once in a while. But Texan Erik Benner is the real heartbreaker: The first in his family to go to college, he’s a beloved teacher and coach who has to work nights and weekends in retail just to get by. His brutal schedule costs him his marriage, he loses his house to foreclosure, and yet he’s stalwart and uncomplaining, a poignant figure in danger of being crushed by harsh economic realities.

    American Teacher, narrated by Matt Damon and co-produced by author and McSweeney’s editor Dave Eggers, is at its most persuasive when outlining how difficult it’s become to keep good teachers and attract new ones with the limited compensation and respect currently on offer. It’s less compelling when it verges into coloring teachers as saints, which runs counter to the grounded arguments that teaching is a profession in which success and skill deserve to be rewarded. As a whole, American Teacher is best taken not as a standalone film, but as a valid counterargument in what’s become a hot topic in the doc world.

  3. There's an interesting article in this week's New Yorker by Atul Gawande on the role of mentor/coaches in medicine, sports, music and teaching. It's about how most professionals can improve their performance with the assistance of a skilled coach, but how threatening it can be to feel that exposed.

  4. I'm not saying many teachers should be fired, but just the possibility would make everyone work harder. Lawyers are constantly in fear of layoffs as are engineers. Both work far harder than teachers on average. What is your solution? You can coach a borderline case.

  5. A borderline case can be coached, sure, but a teacher at the bottom year after year cannot currently be let go, and will be paid more than a very good starting teacher. That's just not the type of rewards system that will turn around our educational system.

  6. The article wasn't about coaching for the purposes of remediation, as in the case of a struggling teacher. The point of the article was that almost anyone can improve his or her professional skills, even the author himself, a surgeon with a national reputation. That doesn't mean it's always easy though. The professional has to be open to coaching for one thing.

  7. But what if they aren't? What if after 10 years, every year this teacher gets mediocre reviews, has below average test scores, and calls in the maximum amount of sick days allowable, burdening the school with the expense of substitutes? What if they never stay late and parents in the know request other teachers? I could see after 1 year you try remediation, but what if the teacher isn't trying? I could even see after 2, but after 3, I don't think they should be around anymore, they should do something else.

    Bonuses should go to those who overperform.

    Nothing is more important than teaching our children. We need to have higher standards. I agree pay should be higher, but security should be less and the extra pay should be merit-based, not automatic.