May 2, 2011 by k. liz
I’m not sure how many of you have seen Waiting for Superman, but if you haven’t, you should. I cried. Probably most of you reading this are ESL or EFL teachers, and so maybe this doesn’t resonate with you the same way as it did with me. I’m also EFL, but this documentary was about the state of education in American schools today. By the end, I was ready to get on a plane back to America and do whatever possible to give a quality education to the kids in America that actually want one.
The movie begins with presenting the current state of schools in America. The sad truth is that a large number of schools are being labeled “dropout factories.” These schools have a higher rate of students dropping out than of students graduating. The part of the movie that moved me the most was seeing the students and parents who did not want to let their children go to a “dropout factory” and were doing everything in their power to find a suitable school for their children. However, sometimes everything in their power is not enough, and those who cannot afford the expensive private schools are stuck in the school that their district is shipped to. I understand that there are many children in America who don’t realize the value of their education, and they can make things difficult for the teachers. However, the reality of the situation is that some teachers no longer value the child more than their own paycheck. Problems with tenure and the inability to fire bad teachers is contributing to the students’ rate of failure.
It was difficult for me to watch several families entering their children into a lottery: which must happen by law if more students sign up for a charter or independent school than there are slots for. The children sat waiting, realizing that their future could very well be contingent on whether or not they made it into this school. Yes, America gets a bad rap for being “dumb” and for having students below the standard, but there are students that want so badly to succeed, and without a teacher that will take an interest in their life, and bestow on them a joy for learning, they will end up as another statistic.
It was a very thought-provoking film for me. It made me wonder about whether or not my time is better spent here, enjoying other cultures and teaching a language that is in high demand, or if I should return back home and reach out to those children that I could instill a love for education and excellence in and help build the future of our country and our world. I don’t know what I will do yet, but I want to be a teacher that makes a difference because I am willing to look beyond the paycheck and the “rights” I have as a teacher.