Parents' Guide to

American Teacher

By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Convincing docu highlights underappreciated teachers.

Movie NR 2011 88 minutes
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What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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American Teacher is informative, convincing, and disheartening. Certainly, most viewers understand that a good teacher makes a big difference in the classroom; this film breaks down the numbers. A great teacher can actually increase a student's lifetime earnings. Multiply that by every kid in the class and every class over the teacher's career, and that's a pretty big boost to society. Sadly, most of the numbers in this documentary go the other direction. It explodes the myth that teachers have a short, cushy workday and shows in one profile after another that salaries are far too low.

The heart of the film is its interviews with actual teachers. They all share a desire to inspire kids, and all are spit out by an educational system that takes everything they have and gives little back. Nevertheless, the film is short on solutions. Yes, teachers ought to be paid more and appreciated more fully, but how can we effect that change? The film steers clear of discussions about the efficacy of unions and the relentless pursuit of test prep that critics say steers teacher performance away from the business of actual teaching, leaving audiences hanging. Is there a way out?

Movie Details

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