American Teacher movie

There will be a special free screening of a recently released documentary on teaching in the U.S. American Teacher on December 12 at 6:00 PM at Town Hall Seattle. Admission is free and open to the public, but seats are limited, and registration is required.

Following the film Warren Etheredge, The Warren Report and the host of The High Bar, will facilitate a discussion with the filmmaker, Nínive Calegari, and an internationally-recognized teacher from Tacoma, Colin Horak. Doors open at 6:00pm and the film starts promptly at 6:30pm.

Blurb provided by Microsoft Partners in Learning:

Weaving interviews of policy experts and startling facts with the lives and careers of four teachers, American Teacher tells the collective story by and about those closest to the issues in our educational system—the 3.2 million teachers who spend every day in classrooms across the country. American Teacher shines a bright light on a real and imminent crisis in our educational system—how little we value our strongest, most committed, and most effective teachers, and the ripple effect this has on how our children learn and their potential for future success.

The best school systems in the world all share one consistent feature: top-performing teachers. But more than 1 million US teachers will retire in the coming decade, and our ability to attract, recruit, retain and reward our teachers is increasingly difficult. By following several teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, and considering the views of both education experts and students, the film explores the impact that not having committed, effective teachers has on our children’s education.

In keeping with the storytelling styles of Dave Eggers (writer) and Vanessa Roth (director), American Teacher is a character-driven film that explores this urgent issue through humor, irony, and the energy of the teachers who fill the screen. More information about the film is available at

Following the film, there will be a discussion Warren Etheredge, the founder of The Warren Report and the host of The High Bar (himself a former educator) with Nínive Calegari, the producer, and Colin Horak, an internationally-recognized teacher from Franklin Pierce High in Tacoma. Doors open at 6:00PM and the film starts promptly at 6:30 PM.

Don’t forget to register online to ensure that you have a seat! Direct link to registration:

The film has had limited release in a few cities in the US, is not scheduled for distribution in the Seattle area. Through partnership with American Teacher, the Microsoft Partners in Learning hopes to engage and inspire audiences to be part of a local and national discussion on how we improve our nation’s education system. The DVD will not be released until next year, so this is a unique opportunity to see this important film before it’s available to the public.

A few points:
  1. I don't know this film, but I do know that any discussion of public school teaching is highly politicized. I'm particularly cautious about those voices that stress the importance of "teacher quality" as this language and idea is most commonly wielded as a club for beating teachers rather than a tool for supporting students.
  2. I don't want to say where the film falls on the political spectrum, but it is narrated by Matt Damon.
  3. The film is being presented by Microsoft's Partners in Learning which is a corporate effort, and completely independent of the Gates Foundation.
  4. Regardless of your established perspective on any matter that is likely to be discussed either in the film or in the discussion to follow, it is always good to hear what other people are saying. I would hope that folks would come with an open (but appropriately skeptical) mind to hear something new.
  5. I fully support the free distribution of all opinions - whether or not they align with my own.


Anonymous said…
Matt Damon's mom is a teacher and this is the link to his speech at the
save our schools march.

Public School Parent
hschinske said…
Matt Damon's mother is Nancy Carlsson-Paige. She's a well known professor of early childhood education. See

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
It's funny but not ha ha funny, the way Gates Jr wants to "help" while Balmer donates money to avoid paying tax for public education. Rich people are happy to put on the dog when it's to their benefit. The Bill's see money in public education but public institutions aren't out of make money. Bill and his friends scream "Fire!" and carve out a new profit center. Nothing more to see, move along folks.

(Sidebar: Why do you think EDM and other discovering math products were sold to public schools? To make money in the face of inexpensive alternatives that never stopped working. Books from Holt and Saxon Math have been around for years. Saxon published his first math book in 1980. These methods are inexpensive and they work. Ask Niki Hayes. I wish she'd post here. She brought Saxon to North Beach after she was principal of K-12 schools for the Spokane tribe. No Gates money for her. Just a great teacher and leader. We let the Niki's get away and pay the noise makers instead.)

- Fed up with the Noise Makers -
Anonymous said…
The focus on teachers, and NOT the rotten system run by plenty of 6++ figure a year buck passers, epitomizes the worship the boss mindset of the Gatesian Toadies.

Does Finland allow plundering elites to rig markets to rip everyone off and to not be accountable for consequences of their stealing?

The Toadies need to worship at the Gates of the 1%, or, they won't have a job.

If the point of society is nurture the opportunity of the top 1 and 5% to live like kings, then the outcomes of the gates - broad - walton crowd should be the law of the land. While Wendy Kopp-Kipp is wonderfully connected and is doing great in the vanguard of privateers , as are her cronies -

do they really have what it takes to be more than well paid flacks once the boyz of Exxon, Halliburton and KBR decide they're going to run the $600,000,000,000 a year "education" system?

Finally, there are real good reasons to be a worshiper / toady:

1. you don't know you're being used (because you're too nice a person to think that anyone could be that venal)

2. you're 1 of the 5% who is paid to be a toady,

3. you want to be 1 of the 5%,

4. you're so clueless you don't know what I'm talking about.

I wonder how many of the Microsoft Partners in Learning are tied in with Democrats for Education Reform?

Funny how I wasn't able to find the names of the people involved in this on Microsoft's website - are the names well hidden, mistakenly hidden, or not there ?
Anonymous said…
opps, didn't sign my comment at 12/6/11 5:35 PM

Anonymous said…
I've heard Damon make lots of very supportive comments about teaching and teachers.

Saxon math? Not everyone likes it. It isn't considered first choice by any means by everyone in teaching (what is?) and it is sort-of "old-school math." Parents I know whose children go to North Beach say it is worksheet heavy. There are a lot better ways to teach math. EDM is highly worksheet oriented as well.

Seattle Schools is so marketed. I used to teach with a lot of non-fiction until we got our readers' and writers' workshop curricula which was fiction heavy. I was resistant and still included a substantial amount of non-fiction. Well, what do you know? The new calendars from Teachers' College are including three times the non-fiction as before Sometimes an old dog knows that the old tricks work just fine.

If we had all the millions and millions and now billions put into new curricula, we would be able to make class size smaller and pay teachers more. Not as much as curricula salesmen, mind you. But a nice little extra for the coin jar in the cupboard.

CT said…
Agreed @northlander - I had Saxon Math in HS. It was awful. Total rote learning - I never learned why I was doing what I was doing with the exponents and the factorization and everything else. I just knew the routine to solve whatever type of problem it was. I hated math until my junior year of college, when I got a junior HIGH math teacher during a summer course and she dumped the book and taught us by concept. We learned why we used the equations we did to find diameter, circumference, volume, standard deviation, etc., then we learned how apply them in the correct situations. I learned to love math.
Jan said…
northender -- I agree as well. I am not a Discovery math fan, but Saxon does not work well for my kids either -- too plodding and slow, and it also "cycles" back through stuff too much. I have had better luck with Singapore -- but agree that the best math teachers know how to teach concepts inside a framework that both facilitates and permits the attainment of mastery of concepts AND provides the context and "big picture" links that allow many kids to learn to love math.

The bloated ineffective curricula that teachers are REQUIRED to use are failing our kids. But the answer is not just a different "math in a box" idea. We need schools to come up with their best delivery -- based on the available teachers (strengths, weaknesses, passions, etc.), the core strengths and weaknesses of their students (which varies from school to school), etc. If we REALLY had principals who were the "instructional leaders" of their schools, we could do this. I believe we have the teaching talent to make it happen. But to date, their hands have been tied -- and I worry that principals are wandering around checking off boxes (like -- do you have today's "instructional goal" written on your board) -- rather than facilitating the highest degree of learning possible in their schools.

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