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TEACH Film Reviews

Film Review of TEACH by Ann B. OʼHalloran

TEACH: TEACHERS ARE TALKING. IS THE NATION LISTENING?
by Ann B. OʼHalloran, Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year, 2007

Created by Boston filmmaker and teacher, Bob Lamothe,
chosen for the Boston International Film Festival,
screened 12:30 pm, Patriots Day, April 16, 2012
at the Loews Cineplex/AMC complex, Boston Common

[A leaflet and invitation are available at http:/www.teachdocumentary.com ]

TEACH is a feature length documentary which has been shown around the country at community, college and teacher events as well as upcoming at Occupy the D.O.E in Washington, D.C. Colleges are using TEACH in their education and political courses. Everywhere it sparks lively and deep discussion about education and where this country is headed.

Filmmaker and Boston teacher, Bob Lamothe, has dedicated four years to chronicling the struggles and destruction left behind as MCAS became the dominant force in public education, reinforced by the federal power of No Child Left Behind. Selection of this film for the festival honors the work of the filmmaker, as well as the other 40 courageous people from around the country who stepped forward to speak for children, families and educators, and renowned leaders in education, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, and Diane Ravitch.

TEACH opens with a series of questions:

The debate is raging, what direction will this nation take our schools?
Should we privatize our public schools?
Should we fire all the teachers in our underperforming schools?

Through parallel paths, the film reveals the decline of the joy of teaching and the joy of learning. The crushing of the freedom to explore. The inequities of resources. The
growth of the “One Right Answer.” The film makes clear that the input of educators
which is critical to improving education has been held in contempt and marginalized.

Lamothe has found the voices for children and schools, normally shunted aside in
meetings, by the media, and by those who would privatize public education and open a new marketplace, referred to as “The Big Enchilada.” The voices you hear are those of brave individuals, willing to go public with their concerns. They speak with courage and conviction. This joint effort aims to be a catalyst for positive change in the current volatile atmosphere.

While many educators, parents, community leaders watched, public education has
morphed into something unrecognizable. Most educators continue on, trying to survive, trying to speak out for children, while living in a cauldron of hot change that has not improved schools in general. This film should encourage and embolden those who care about children, schools and our democracy. In the film State Representative CarlSciortino for one urges people to speak out loudly on education issues, to explain their concerns at the State House, to become a bigger voice.
The messages seen throughout the film are not strange to most educators. Listen toBoston teacher Steve Gordon, “Students need to be engaged and have ownership oftheir own learning. That is what creates lifelong learners.”
As Jonathan Kozol reminds us in the film, while each student has unique specialabilities and interests, these are now neglected. Current policies destroy what makes education great and successful. “The spirit of a punitive, mean spirited, blamingatmosphere in the schools. . . destroys the spirits of teachers and students”. . . whileessential collaboration and cooperation get lip service.
The reality of Kozolʼs words were highlighted just last week when reports emerged thatunder [previous] superintendent Hall, in Atlanta “Underlings were humiliated duringrallies at the Georgia Dome. . . [she] permitted principals with the highest test scores tosit up front near her, while sticking those with the lowest scores off to the side, in thebleachers.”
Sad-to-say, such behaviors are seen in schools in our commonwealth, too, where thedrive to “succeed” with test scores is pushed by bullying behaviors of many schoolleaders. Curiously, we have a legislative push for teaching kids not to bully while inthose same schools educators face administrative bullying.
For everyone involved in education: teachers, administrators, parents, community leaders, legislators and other government officials TEACH is a “must-see.” It shows why things are not what they always appear to be and who wants to keep it that way. Itclarifies and answers a lot of the confusing and mixed messages projected by themedia.
The flood of initiatives, laws, regulations, media-talk regarding “privatizing,” “datawalls,” school closings, school re-openings, “compacts” in cities including Bostonbetween the district and charter school alliances, data-driven policies, are confusingand troubling.
TEACH is the film created by teachers which may frighten you, may resonate with youbut will open your eyes and clarify the issues - and will certainly empower you.


Film Review of TEACH by Seth Peterson

If you follow education reform, if you care a whit about preserving public education in this country, and if you live in Boston, you've seen them... the ubiquitous Robert Lamothe and his wife, Yvonne. Bob and his camera capture every important meeting, every protest, press event, rally, and job action. In his lens, the Boston School Committee sees its agenda-driven reflection, complete with puppet strings leading to the mayor. In his lens, the steps of the Mass State House crowd and clamor with voices of righteous rage, while the chambers within echo with empty rhetoric from politicians and bitter disappointment from students and teachers testifying at hearings. From Central Falls to Connecticut, from  Washington to Wisconsin, Mr. LaMothe has documented the wreckage of this generation's so-called reformers and the growing tide of organized anger in response to a corporate backed assault on public schools and public employee unions. Most importantly though, as the sub-title of his film suggests, Robert and Yvonne have done something the president, secretary of education, the governors, the big name film makers, and even the local newspapers refuse to do: talk to teachers. It seems obvious. In fact, it should be prerequisite to any education reform, and yet the idea of listening to what those in the classroom have to say, the concept of honoring -- even considering -- what they know, has been lost in the shuffle of re-election bids on both sides of the aisle and private contractors scurrying for influence that translates into dollars. Bob knows teachers are talking and realized from the start of this push and push-back, that a venue, a vehicle, was needed to be their bullhorn. Thus, "Teach" rises to the occasion, calls us to attention and to arms.  Honest, candid interviews with a wide array of teachers -- middle school, elementary, and high school; veteran educators, retired educators, those new to the profession; representing many disciplines, languages, and cultures -- shed light on the realities of the work day, the woefully inadequate resources in urban classrooms, the impetus for and effects of this era’s relentless push for testing to generate more data which generates more testing.  These interviews are craftily interwoven with Lamothe’s own commentary on the state of education and the powers behind the reform movement, or, as he dubs them: “the faces behind the curtain.”

In one of the most poignant scenes, Lamothe segued brilliantly from a comment about the lack of arts, specifically violins, in the schools, hands of students in Roxbury to the course catalog of the suburban mega-school in Newton, MA. The catalog listings go on ad infinitum, offerings in dance, pottery, film making, poetry, philosophy, electrical engineering all pop into view as the camera travels down the pristine corridors of the new multi-million dollar school, zooming in on the myriad rooms that hold these resource riches. These shots are juxtaposed with the course listings and staff roster of the Boston school where both Robert and I taught: facing (at the time, four, now) six consecutive years of budget and staffing cuts, this school offers no music, no art, no electives what so ever. There are three teachers left in each department trying to cover four years of most subjects. Students in this "college prep" school will graduate without ever selecting a single class for themselves -- hardly good preparation for the summer after graduation when they will be overwhelmed and ill-equipped choosing classes for their first semester of college, while students from Newton navigate the same course catalog with ease. 

“Teach” has earned a well-deserved slot in this year’s Boston International Film Festival.  Be there on April 16th to see and hear the story from those who do the work. This is a must-see documentary for anyone involved in the struggle to improve schools and for everyone who has not given up on the dream of equity in our public schools and in our nation. 

Seth Peterson
BPS Teacher


Please send us your film review or reactions to the TEACH documentary. Send Film Reviews or Quotes to
filminfo(at)teachdocumentary.com

We are in the process of putting together a What People are Saying Quotes Page for the website and other promotional materials that features QUOTES/REACTIONS, etc. about the movie. We are asking that you write a quote that gives a reaction or makes a statement about TEACH. We are making plans to reach a national audience for our documentary TEACH, Teachers are Talking, Is the Nation Listening and would very much appreciate your help. Please send your quote to us at filminfo@teachdocumentary.com. Also, including your identifying occupation, title, organization, ect. would be very helpful. Below is a paragraph that gives our thoughts on why we are trying to expand the reach of the film. We thank you for your support of the film and your help in getting the film out to a wider audience.

The TEACH documentary, TEACH, Teachers are Talking, Is the Nation Listening? is a film that features conversations about the art of teaching and learning by teachers themselves. We have interviewed over 40 teachers from many school districts including Boston, Brooklyn, NY, Madison, WI, Key West, FL, North Conway, NH, Cambridge, MA, Newton, MA, Lincoln-Sudbury,MA, and others. Additional parts of the movie include legislative hearings, speeches by Bradley Whitford, Diane Ravitch, and others, debates between union and school officials, various public hearings about school closings, and various teacher rallies. Recently we traveled to Wisconsin to take part in the rallies and document the multitude of happenings there to fight to protect their unions. We have interviews and many scenes from their recent protests there including the rally of more than 100,000 people on February 26.

Robert Lamothe and Yvonne Lamothe are teachers in the Boston Public Schools. Since we started this movie around 4 years ago we have become increasing concerned and dismayed by what has been happening to our schools and education in general. People are making decisions about our schools that don't really know what they are doing and don't have the interests of children and our schools as the determining factor in setting our education policies. The joys of learning and teaching are being destroyed by this terrible emphasis on testing and standards. We have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that very seldom do teachers voices get heard. Teachers who should be a leading part of education policy and "reform" are for the most part not part of the process, not part of the national and local debates.

Each day we hear about teaching and teachers through the eyes of administrators, politicians and business leaders. Public education in the US is under attack. Seldom is voice given to those dedicated and experienced teachers who work in our public schools. . Interviews with teachers from many school districts illuminate what's happening to schools across the country, what is impacting their performance, and offers their analysis of the performance and purpose of the charter movement. This documentary hopes to give dignity and appreciation to the passion, commitment and insight of those who make the choice to devote their lives to educating all of our nation's children.

As stated in the subtitle, Teachers are Talking, Is the Nation Listening. We hope to bring the voices and wisdom of teachers to the nation.

Sincerely,

Robert Lamothe and Yvonne Lamothe
Director / Producer
Film Our Way Films
http://www.filmourwayfilms.com
Email: bob@filmourwayfilms.com
617 699-9349

 

 

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