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Mrs. Mimi's Teacher Review of Waiting for Superman

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Mrs. Mimi's Teacher Review of Waiting for SupermanWell, we teachers are certainly waiting for something to prevail. Common sense? Our point of view? Reality? 


So, Superman? If you could have one or all of the above handy when you arrive, that would be fabulous. 


If you haven’t already heard, there is a new movie called “Waiting for Superman” which chronicles five families who are desperate (with a side of extra drama) to find out if it is indeed their lucky day to win the lottery. No, not the Powerball, although I’m sure that would be nice too. I’m talking about the charter school admission lottery. (Spoiler alert!) 

One message I received loud and clear from this film that claims to portray the current situation in our school system:  charter schools can save your life and public schools are the devil.

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Yes, I’m going to go there.


In an oh-so-tidy fashion, “Waiting For Superman” wraps up the school reform conundrum in a lovely little bow.  According to this filmmaker, charter schools are the only route to success for children in poor communities. Oh, and the public schools in those communities are evidently filled with nothing but horrific teachers who could care less and are barely conscious between the hours of 8 and 3. In a nutshell. 


Methinks this movie is taking the whole super hero metaphor a bit far (and heinously oversimplifying a hugely complicated issue) when it essentially characterizes charter schools as GOOD and public schools as EVIL.


While I know that there are amazing charter schools out there doing wonderful things for children, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, shall we? I mean, I’m not ready to totally dismiss public schools in a single bound. Leap over tall buildings? Sure. But completely ignore the context in which many schools operate? Sorry, can’t. Why? Because I have faith in public school teachers. Because I taught in the schools that this movie is so quick to demonize. And because I say experience trumps Hollywood any day.


Just this week, Bill Gates (Mr. Funding for This Movie), David Guggenheim (Mr. Movie Maker), Michelle Rhee (Ms. I Fire Teachers On Camera) and John Legend (??) discussed the film on Oprah. I watched as Oprah questioned her panel, including John Legend, because writing a song about education qualifies one as an expert on the issue? I had to refrain from hurling sharp objects at the television when I heard John Legend say that public schools have to stop “blaming poverty” for their shortcomings. 


Evidently, all of us owe poverty a big apology. Sorry poverty, I guess you’re off the hook this time. Our bad. 


And yes, you would be correct in noticing that Oprah’s panel did not consist of ONE TEACHER! A songwriter? Of course! Teachers? No. I guess Oprah was attempting to be consistent with the movie itself. You see, out of all the voices considered and represented in this film about education in America, teachers were somehow left out.


You read correctly. In a movie about schools, they seem to have forgotten about the voices of teachers. 


Usually, I would get all fired up about the absence of teachers’ voices. However, this time, THIS TIME it doesn’t bother me as much because if a teacher had gotten up on that screen and threw the rest of us under the bus by agreeing whole-heartedly with the heavy-handed ideas promoted in this film, that, my friends, that would have bothered me more.


You see, I have a problem with the way this film reduced desirable school outcomes to increased test scores. I have a problem with the notion that abandoning the idea of public schools in favor of opening charter schools run by companies for a profit is somehow considered school reform. I have a problem with the obvious lack of consideration for the context of schools. To me, sensationalizing and promoting these ideas doesn’t do anything to improve the outcomes for children who truly are struggling to succeed in school. It doesn’t do anything to improve the professional capacity of teachers who are struggling to do their jobs, often in unreasonable conditions. 


So, my teacher friends, what are we waiting for? Certainly not Superman. I say, let’s grab our capes and a camera and make our own movie. I figure everyone else has gotten in their two cents - it has to be our turn.


What do you think of "Waiting for Superman"? Share in the comments section!

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