Tag Archives: Waiting for Superman

The Antidote to Anti-Teacher Films

The film considered by some to be the anti-Waiting for Superman is now widely available for viewing online, on television, and on DVD. The documentary American Teacher, released last year under the auspices of The Teacher Salary Project, is a straightforward look at the rewards and challenges of teaching across the country and promotes no particular political agenda—a criticism leveled against the earlier film.

American Teacher is written by Dave Eggers—who kick-started a national tutoring and writing program for children—directed by Vanessa Roth, and narrated by actor Matt Damon.

Five teachers from four different regions of the country tell their personal stories. They work long hours for not enough pay. They often have to pay out of their own pockets for school supplies. One is working a second job to earn enough to support his family. One pregnant young teacher, unsure whether she would return to the classroom after the birth of her baby, is back after a six-week leave and is stressed about time away from her family and finding an empty room where she can express her milk. Another teacher, a dedicated leader in his school, eventually leaves to join his family’s real estate business. It simply pays better for a lot less work.


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We Don’t Need Another Hero

I didn’t get an invitation to a free screening of Waiting for Superman. So, money being tight, I haven’t seen it yet. Recently a friend treated me to a movie, and Waiting for Superman and the bank-heist action thriller The Town were showing at the same multiplex. Given a choice between a movie starring Harlem Children’s Zone’s Geoffrey Canada and D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and one starring Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm, I chose the latter. Come on, who wouldn’t?


The media blitz surrounding the release of Waiting for Superman in late September was hard to escape, though. NBC kicked off a week of nightly education news coverage with a town hall meeting, timed to the movie’s release. Oprah hailed it as “the movie that could revolutionize America’s schools,” and Rhee as a “one-woman tornado at the center of a Washington, D.C. storm.” I feel that I’ve read enough reviews, news and commentary to know what it’s about, but I will reserve judgment until I’ve seen it for myself.

In the meantime, as I mentioned in my last post, D.C.’s education-reform mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated in the Democratic primary, and, as expected, Rhee turned in her resignation on October 13. Who knows where she will turn up next, but she is another example of the kinds of policy wonks with little or no experience in the classroom who think they know better than veteran teachers how to educate the nation’s children.

Rhee taught in a predominantly black Baltimore elementary school for all of three years as a fast-track recruit for Teach for America before starting the New Teacher Project, her base for advocating  nationwide education reform. Her first year as a teacher was disastrous, which is not unusual; many new teachers struggle through their first year. But listening to her gleefully telling tales of taping pupils’ mouths shut to keep them quiet makes one wonder whether she should have been sent to the rubber room with the other “bad” teachers that she was so eager to fire.


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