teacher_year_parking_signRarely do you find primetime television spending two hours showcasing the struggles of teachers and providing an indepth view of what it is like (really like) to be an elementary or secondary teacher in today’s classrooms while experiencing meaningful learning in students.

On Friday, September 6, CBS aired a 2 hour documentary called “TEACH“….and it was fantastic! I highly recommend it to anyone to watch it again on September 14th when it airs again on the new Pivot network. Wow…I was so engaged for the whole two hours. Directed by Davis Guggenheim (award-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman), this was a well-crafted story about what defines a great teacher. See article on show from TIME magazine.

It wasn’t one of those corny shows that amp it up with ridiculous stories or rare exceptions in the profession of teaching – and there weren’t any urban rough or private schools involved that not everyone can relate to. This was a documentary profiling 4 teachers across the US representing grades 4, 7 9 and 10. There were two male and two female teachers who had a variety of teaching experiences from a few years to 13 years. They were teaching in schools in east Los Angeles, Idaho and Denver. They taught reading, math and history and their stories were real. It was a well-documented journey about teachers trying to get their students to succeed.

Wow it brought back such a rush of memories for me. When I was listening to their interviews about their challenges of how to reach certain students or wondering if changes in the classroom were having a positive effect on learning – it took me back a number of years when I felt the same way. Coming from K-12 system and having experienced many of the same challenges in math, reading and writing with my students – it had a powerful impact on me. It is not something I can describe easily – just that I got it, I felt it and I understood it.

It felt like I was right there with them in the classroom. When it showed them at home marking papers and realizing their students were not getting a concept or their writing just wasn’t improving – I knew exactly how they felt. When I saw them hovering over students while taking a test and saw the students put in the wrong answer (knowing full well they had just done a similar concept for weeks and got it correct), I felt the frustration and the disbelief. It was a documentary that projected so accurately (but not over sensationalizing) the true experiences of the teachers and the responses of their students.

The strong message I got out of the movie, is one of building confidence in students. When students feel respected, cared about and paid attention to – their confidence soars. The importance of rapport was another message. When a strong rapport is established between students and teachers, a safe and supportive learning environment is created. The perseverance of students and teachers to take the journey of learning together is what education is all about. There weren’t any Disney-like endings to this documentary – it was real. Some students did not pass, many made great strides and some were exceptional. The tears and joy were real. The parent-teacher-student interviews that capped off the show were also so real – expressions of support and appreciation for teachers who went more than the mile in helping students learn.

Teaching is such a rewarding job….when a student learns (really learns, deeply learns and reflects on their learning) …that is the ultimate high. Thank you to these four brave teachers for exposing their vulnerabilities, their personal stories and sharing them with the world. They have provided an excellent learning resource to help any teacher understand what outstanding teaching is all about!  Whether you are a K-12 teacher, a post-secondary educator or an educational developer – this movie is a worthy learning resource!

TEACH is a superb look at how learning happens!

Photo: Wesley Fryer, Teacher of the Year Parking, August 1, 2006 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)