Saturday, September 25, 2010

"I'm gonna run to the river, kiss my hand and wave. Gonna run to the river, gonna throw a blue bouquet. 'Cause they're gonna be cool happy genius heroes, I'm gonna miss them so much." ~the national

Tonight I planned an evening for three of my teacher friends and I to see Waiting for Superman. It was great to hang out with them because I'm the only one left at our school so I don't see them much anymore (two of them aren't teaching anymore and one is at a different school). We all hated the movie, though. It made us really angry. So get ready for a rant. It's incredibly biased. And political. And one-sided. In promoting it's own agenda, it completely ignores important factors in education. It blames the teachers and the teacher's unions for all the problems in our country's education system. The main problem is not the teachers. Why not examine the fact that education has been turned into a bureaucracy? School districts are run like companies. Principals are given all the power. The film never once mentions the importance of strong leadership. What about schools with principals who can't lead? Who don't know how to run schools and train and inspire teachers? I know that there are some bad teachers out there, but that's not the biggest problem we face and should not be a reason to completely strip unions of their power. Teacher's unions are necessary to protect teachers because of unfair treatment that they face. Trust me, if the unions didn't exist, a lot of teachers' lives would be ruined. I've seen it happen to great teachers even though the union does exist. The union is necessary because of the way that our education system is run. I wish it weren't necessary, but it is.

The film also fails to address the issue of parental involvement. It follows the lives of some students who are applying to charter schools. All the students followed in the movie have parents who deeply care about their kids' education. Unfortunately, those parents are not the norm. I have a feeling the kids who didn't get into the charter schools to which they applied will still be okay, even if they go to regular neighborhood public schools, because their parents will push them. Parental involvement is SO important. Some parents of my students don't even know where their kids are at 11pm. I've even had parents tell me that they've given up on their kids. What about those kids, the ones who don't have someone at home telling them to do their homework and inspiring them to succeed and emphasizing the importance of a good education? Yes, that's the teacher's job as well, but it needs to be a joint effort. It's not fair to place all the responsibility on the teachers.

Another issue I have with the movie (and I realize this might make me some enemies) is the promotion of the idea that all kids should go to college. I believe that all kids should have the opportunity to go to college if they so choose, but I don't think that college is for everyone. Society is made up of an incredibly diverse group of people who complete a variety of jobs, all of which are necessary for the society to run smoothly. What's wrong with becoming skilled in a trade? Why do we place such an emphasis on white collar jobs? Not everyone can be a doctor or a lawyer (society couldn't function properly), and not everyone wants to be, and that's okay.

I don't know, I was just really angry while watching the film. I felt like I was being attacked. It was promoting a very specific political agenda, and I don't agree with it's message at all. Sure, I felt for the kids in the movie, but there has to be a better way to improve the public education system. I'm a teacher, I'm proud to be a teacher, I care deeply about my students, I want to give them the best education possible, and this movie made me feel...I can't think of the right word.

I just wrote this immediately after returning home from the movie and I may come back and edit it once I've sorted my ideas out a little more. Anyway, here's the trailer:


Denise said...

I wanted to see this movie when you mentioned it before, but I'm not sure if I want to now.

I agree on well, actually everything you said, and if they don't address that in the movie then it's probably not a movie for me to watch.

What/who does the movie blame for the 'crappy education'? Only the teachers?

Claire said...

The teachers and the teacher's union are to blame. It just paints a very incomplete picture.

Kathy Seal said...

I value your reaction as a teacher. I read a great letter to the editor in the paper which said, roughly, "When things go poorly, we blame the teachers, when they go well we praise the administrators (or politicians."
What you say about parents is 100% on the mark. Research shows that parents' expectations are the most important kind of parental involvement. People who want to improve education should stop attacking teachers and start helping parents see how they can convey good expectations.