Waiting for Superman – Guest Post Review

I posted my thoughts on SeattleMomBlogs.com earlier this year after watching the new documentary Waiting for Superman at the Seattle International Film Festival. When Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) offered me passes to see it this month during its theatrical release, I decided to pass them on to a friend of mine currently working on her Masters in Education so I could hear her perspective. Her name is Regina Millard. The following is her review:

In my past life I was a mental health counselor. Most moms’ have a past life. It was the life before scraping cheerios out of the cracks of your car, before spit up was an accessory with every outfit, before the books on your nightstand were limited to Curious George and Brown Bear. Over the years the books my children read have progressed from those board books they chewed on as babies to Magic Tree House books to the classics such as Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and Where the Red Fern Grows. With this progression I was left with time on my hands and the notion that it was time to go back to work. Nothing in me could go back to working with chronically mentally ill adults. With great internal debate I made the choice to go into teaching.

So, I have given up every Saturday from 8-5 and a lot of time researching and studying and every day I worry. Did I make the right choice? Then it happened. Sitting in the theater I saw a preview for a movie that I thought answered my question: Waiting for Superman. I was certain it would assure me I had made the wrong choice. I was certain it would tell me how horrible teachers were and how the majority of them were failing their students. Even Obama made this inference in his inaugural speech when saying, “our schools fail too many.” A friend of mine a few weeks later asked if I would like to attend a showing of the new movie directed by Davis Guggenheim and stay for a question and answer session with the director. I was pleasantly surprised. I did not feel the documentary to be anti-teacher, but anti-union. It was anti- tenure for teachers. It seemed to equally mock republican and democratic politicians in their attempts to fix a “broken” system. It talked about charter schools and portrayed them in a highly positive light one second but then stated that 4 out of 5 charter schools are unsuccessful. It showed children and parents pinning all their hopes for their educational career on a lottery in which the big payout is entrance into a school better than the traditional public school option with odds of winning equally as low as winning the real lottery. I cried as the inner city children were not chosen.

The movie offered insight. It provoked debate. It provided information. What it didn’t provide was a solution. So, as the movie ended what did we do? We asked questions and looked to a movie director to answer the tough questions no one else has been able to answer. I was left with more questions than when I went in. What portion of student failure is placed on the teacher, what piece of blame does the system get and what piece does the student need to claim. I left the theater glad I had seen the movie and honestly confident, after seeing some really bad teachers (who in New Jersey are paid to not teach) that I am a good teacher. I know there are bad teachers out there. I am not blind to that idea. As I join the club of the under paid and over represented I do not feel the need to arbitrarily defend them. There should be accountability. There needs to be a balance of old teachers with experience and new teachers with enthusiasm (not that either one could not possess both qualities).

In the end I agree that as a parent I am taking the leap of faith that the movie talks about. As I leave my own children with adults (in public school) who will spend more waking hours with them than I do, I trust that they will understand that I am leaving with them the things I love the most, that mean more to me than anything else. They deserve the best, so give them that. As a future teacher, investing an insane amount of money that will take years to pay back, I have faith that I will have the skills and compassion to teach and not fail. I can’t fix the entire system. I personally can’t weed out who and what is failing our children. I can offer hope to my students that they can learn and achieve, and succeed. The system may be broken but they are not.

Since WAVA made this review possible, here’s a little blurb about what they do. There appear to be more options for school now than I was aware of:

**WAVA and K12 provide Washington students in grades K-12 the chance to learn in the ways that are right for them. Washington Virtual Academies is a tuition-free public school that uses the K¹² curriculum, which is accessed via an Online School (OLS) as well as through more traditional methods. Materials are delivered right to your doorstep—including everything from books and CDs to even bags of rocks and dirt for your child’s science experiment.

WAVA details:
• The award-winning K12 curriculum
• Support from highly qualified, state-certified teachers
• An active, supportive school community
Weekly opportunities to meet with other families
• Books, materials, and loaner computer system
• The chance for students to participate in their school district’s athletics and extracurricular activities

**Information provided by WAVA, not written by DaringYoungMom.com

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5 Responses to Waiting for Superman – Guest Post Review

  1. Denise says:

    As a former teacher who has been all but completely disillusioned by the ed system its lack of respect for teacher abilities, and surprised by the level of apathy of the parents in California (As a general rule, parents do not put much emphasis-a nice way of saying they don’t care-about the education of their children and don’t even encourage completion of homework)….as that woman I have to step out in defense of those like me.

    I have to speak for teachers who get into this profession. We get into teaching, we come in with the great burden of the fact that these human beings are in our care and deserve the best educational environment possible! The students enter, and interact with different children with different upbringings and families. They come in with different abilities and strengths. As a teacher, it is our job to facilitate the most optimal learning and living environment possible. My question to you parents is: If you had 32 different human beings in your care, not just in your care, but had to prepare and execute learning goals with them, how would you see fit to carry it out?

    Our job is so important that it is difficult to judge unless you’ve been in that spot. Parents forget that teachers need love too. We take on your children. Not just yours, but 31 other parent’s. Everyone gets support but us! We have the toughest job, and yet get the least support.

    The spirit I entered the profession with, sufficiently stomped on and thrown away with a sneer, may not return which is scary. Am I becoming jaded? I guess if there was some support from someplace, teachers could be better for your kids. Now I know that there are teachers who somehow got into the profession and carry with them few skills necessary, but they are few and far between. To focus on them and generalize is to discount those who do…Maybe ones who still have that fire in them for children and education which is needed to get this country back on track!

    So before you point the finger at teachers, I challenge parents to question how they can help. Volunteer perhaps?

    Thank you.

    • Denise,
      I agree that teachers have one of the hardest jobs around. I can’t imagine the strain that would be put on you to perform, especially with the lack of support that’s out there for teachers. This post is written by a future teacher in response to a specific film.

      It raised many questions for her but she’s going forward with her education and idealism. I hope that in her career our country can get to the point where we support our teachers in a way that will make them feel valued and help them be as successful as possible.

      I second the suggestion to volunteer. Being in my kids’ classrooms has given me a healthy respect for what their teachers do every day to ensure they are learning and growing well.

      Thanks for you comment!

  2. Ben Blair says:

    Thank you for the hopeful review, Regina. I especially appreciated your unique perspective as a future-teacher with eyes wide open. I’m an employee of K12, and I’m glad your experience was thought-provoking and an occasion to reflect on the work of teaching. I agree that the big disparity was that charters were the answer, but only 1 in 5 is successful. I do feel like the film has opened up a conversation about what we want for our school kids. And I’ll echo the comments that for parents, actually getting into our kids’ schools is the first major step. Thank you!

  3. Scott Holm says:

    I really enjoyed Regina’s post. I think this post brings a great perspective as I haven’t heard much feedback on the film from other teachers. I agree that the movie was very compelling when stating the facts and shedding light on the issues in schools, but I would have loved to learn more about the solutions people are testing that show positive results. The movie was a bit short on those details, but it still makes you think which is a great thing in and of itself. Thanks again for your perspective, I enjoyed reading it!

    Disclaimer: I work for K12, Inc and found your post through a colleague.

  4. Aubrey says:

    I take on the education of my children every day.
    It is tough, yet they are my tough.
    No one else needs take on that responsibility.
    The system is broken. I am fixing it for my three.
    You should see what individual hours spent on individual children can accomplish….
    Our school district LOVES it when my kids test.
    Its not the answer for everyone. Hands down it is the one for me.

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