No Calling Out, Raise Your Hand

This post is also available in: Spanish

I saw the documentary American Teacher with Isabel on Tuesday night. It was moving, overwhelming and made me love (even more) all the teachers out there doing what I think is the toughest job. I work in my daughter’s school one day a week as a teacher’s aide, and I can tell you one day a week is all I can do. It is the hardest (and the most rewarding) day of my week by far.

American Teacher was produced by former public school teacher Nínive Calegari and Dave Eggers, the author of several extraordinary books and co-founder (with Calegari) of 826 Valencia, a very successful writing program for school kids in San Francisco that has been copied in several cities across the U.S. For More information check out the Teacher Salary Project.

Here is what Isabel had to say after seeing the film:

Dear Sarah,
I felt so angry and embarrassed watching this documentary! We spend $640 billion annually on the military, more than all the other countries in the world COMBINED (and we don’t have any enemies to speak of), but we don’t invest the minimum needed for education. We are lagging behind most Western nations in the quality of education. This problem has been studied, documented, discussed extensively and is now a hot issue, but no one is really addressing the need to change the status of teachers, value them, and give them a decent income. That’s where our taxes should be going!! The film Waiting for Superman blamed the failure of our educational system on the quality of the teachers and the fact that, due to the unions, it’s hard to get rid of the bad ones. American Teacher considers the problem from a different perspective, one that exposes the reality of any normal teacher’s life: the low salaries; the few incentives or economic increments; the incredibly long hours, up to 65 or 70 hours per week (and that’s not counting the extra jobs that most of them have in order to make ends meet); the lack of respect from the community; and the fact that they have to buy didactic material, even pencils, out of their own money because public schools can’t provide what is needed. The work conditions are so bad that few college students even consider teaching as a career, and most teachers quit after four of five years on the job.  The documentary follows the struggles of several teachers, calls for action, and raises some important questions. What sort of nation do we want to be? How are we going to fend in the global economy if we can’t even prepare our kids to compete?

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