This year’s TED talks started today. The iPad 2 was announced, but I think I’ll post about something else today.
I just returned from seeing Waiting for Superman and think it’s worth mentioning and recommending (though I preferred Race to Nowhere). WFS is one of those movies that I’ll be processing for a while. It’s been a good year for education documentaries. There were many things that disturbed me about the film, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who may have it in their netflix cue. There are, however, a few things I thought I’d mention as well as questions I still have.
Geoffrey Canada’s optimism and unabashed honesty was great.
I’m still unsure about what to make of Michelle Rhee (I think her heart was in the right place – focused on the kids, but she didn’t have a heart with the adults she had to deal with).
I’m going to stay away from the union debate, although I will agree with one of my colleagues who saw the film with me that receiving tenure FOREVER after a year’s work is ridiculous. Although Finland, a country that is always compared to as having great student achievement, has strong teacher unions and tenure.
The film makers mention in the film that only one in five charter schools succeeds, but only focus on the successful ones. There are large public schools that do excellent jobs serving all people, but the film chooses to stick to its point of view and doesn’t show these.
The film also focuses on really bad teachers. What about mediocre teachers? How can we grow them into excellent effective ones?
If charter schools offer choice in a public system, why are kids’ futures handled by lotteries – that’s not a choice.
It was sad to see a parent initiate a call with a teacher asking for a meeting and never hearing back from them. I give the parents of my class my cell phone number.
Nonetheless, there is a problem in much of public education, and if nothing else, even if flawed in some ways, there are many trying to do something about it.
For example, Bill Gates, who is featured in this movie and here is someone who had an elite private education, made his billions, and now dedicates his life to public service around the world. As an independent school teacher, it’s hard to grapple with some of the issues posed in the movie. But Gates’ philanthropic work gives me hope.
Here are some reviews I enjoyed reading (both slightly different):
The last 10 minutes of WFS were incredibly hard to watch, and I’m guessing another movie released last year which received less press than WFS, The Lottery (next on my list) is a very similar doc. Below is the trailer.