The Unfortunate Truth

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American Teacher is an eye-opening documentary that exposes the harsh realities’ teachers in America face when they enter the educational workforce. Despite our country’s high demand on people achieving a higher education we do not value and respect the people who devote their lives to making this possible. The film follows the lives of four teachers and exposes their difficult journey as a teacher in America. American Teacher sets out to raise awareness about our national outlook of under appreciating and under paying educators and attempts to alter the view of teachers to become a more desirable and appreciated job.

Every day, Jamie Fidler, Jonathan Dearmen, Erik Benner and Rhena Jasey enter a classroom filled with young minds with limitless potential. However, low funding, long hours, and lack of appreciation make it difficult for more people to devote their lives to educating. Jamie Fidler a teacher of eleven years began her experience in the classroom spending $3,000 out of her own pocket in order to supply her classroom with essential items. Since then she has been working a second and sometimes third job in order to make an appropriate living for her family.  Following that we meet Rhena Jasey, a Harvard graduate who was criticized for choosing education as a profession due to her prestigious college education. Next we are introduced to Erik Benne, a Texas history teacher and coach who are loved dearly by his students. Due to the low salary of teachers and his family’s needs, he works another job in order to have a higher income. Finally, we meet Jonathan Dearman, a man who adored his profession, but was forced out of the classroom due to lack of salary.

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Each of these teachers is committed to their profession yet face harsh realities that are associated with their career. The most unfortunate problem that each of these educators face is the lack of salary, which forces many educators out of the classroom as we saw with Dearman. Although these teachers are dedicated to their profession, the lack of money is a hindrance on their entire lives. Each one of these teachers is afraid of survival, whether it is family or personal needs; money is a factor that can not be ignored. The fact that 62% of teachers have a second job outside of their classroom hinders their ability to commit everything they have to their students (McGinn, Roth 00:41:28). “Almost half of teachers leave before their fifth year many citing the low salary and difficult working conditions” (McGinn, Roth 00:41:28) The drastic number of teachers with second jobs as well as high percentage of teachers leaving the profession creates great concerns for the future of the American education system. American Teacher illustrates the immense hardships educators face, but also serves as a warning to our country about our educational system. The decline in teacher conditions and pay directly correlates with student achievement. Among industrialized nations we rank in the middle of the pack 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. These ranking limits our potential as a country and the only way to raise test scores and prepare young people for global competition we must encourage students to consider teaching as a profession. (McGinn, Roth 00:16:30) The negative stigma associated with teaching drives people away from the profession and therefore negatively influences the future of America.


In our culture, it is now expected that a person graduates college, and it is becoming more common that graduate school is the next step. The pressure and demand to achieve an education begins in elementary school and the people who guide and assist students are not respected in our culture. In our country doctors and lawyers are considered prestigious jobs, yet there would be no doctors or lawyers without educators. As a country we need to change the viewpoint people have with teachers and encourage people to choose teaching as a career path. Educators deserve a higher standing in society and the choice to become a teacher must be valued as opposed to looked down on.

A yahoo news article by Liz Goodwin explores the disparities from the film. The film implies that an underlying problem in our education system is the low salary teachers earn and that teachers need to be paid more. Goodwin explains the split in education reform on whether to “raise base salaries altogether or compensate some teachers more by handing out bonuses based on student test scores” (Goodwin P. 1) Goodwin discusses work done by Economist Eric Hanushek who claims that “raising teacher pay across the board would have little to no effect on students test scores” (Goodwin P.1). Instead of raising pay as a whole he feels that there are alternative ways for teachers to improve students success one of which is “hand out bonuses to those who are lifting scores called merit pay” (Goodwin Page 1). The argument Hanushek is making claims that paying everyone the same amount will not result in better teachers instead he feels the merit pay will reward the good teachers.  The alternative views about teacher salary create concern because there are many approaches that may be deemed the “best”. Overall this article is exploring the different options not discussed in the film that are available in order to raise the performance of teachers in America.

Overall, American Teacher illustrates the necessity of valuing educators. The low salaries and low appreciation these people receive will eventually damage Americas education system entirely. The hardship these four teachers faced were troubling and appalling. It is educators that are the foundation of young peoples futures and therefore it is our responsibility as a country to respect and provide for these people who are devoting their lives to the future of America.


Works Cited

“About the Project .” Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <>.


Jeri . “The Progressive Press.” The Progressive Press RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <>.




Roth, Vanessa, and Brian McGinn. American Teacher. Video documentary, 2011.


Yahoo News, Liz Goodwin. “‘American Teacher’ Film Argues Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough, but Ignores Merit Pay Debate.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.



Few Carrots for the Most Important In-School Factor

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When an Alabama Education Administrator, Tony Thacker, spoke on behalf of the significance of teachers, he said adamantly, “there are two sets of adults: classroom teachers who ensure the future of our students, and everyone else” (00:3:17). The 2011 documentary, American Teacher, strives to validate his notion of teaching as an important and powerful profession and destroy the stereotype that the job of a teacher is trivial and undemanding. Teachers provide the knowledge and skills necessary to empower children, but their role in the classroom and in the lives of students has been historically belittled. Unfair policies pay teachers little and provide them with few benefits; likewise, social misunderstandings of teaching devalue the profession. Thus, teachers go underpaid and unappreciated. With complaints of low salaries, lack of prestige, and long hours, it is no wonder why highly skilled people rarely become teachers, and why many others quit teaching. American Teacher, directed by Vanessa Roth and Brian McGinn, looks to eliminate preconceived notions of teaching by combining the diverse experiences of American public school teachers, with illustrations of the problems in education policy by leaders in education reform. In doing so, the documentary sheds light on the difficulties and injustices found in a profession immensely responsible for individual and nationally success.

Research has proven that teachers are the most significant in-school factor in providing students with the ability to succeed. Education historians like Diane Ravitch, billionaire philanthropists such as Bill Gates, and political leaders like President Barrack Obama, have conceded that a teacher’s role in academia is vital. If this is true, why are few top college graduates pursuing teaching, and why do hundreds of teachers leave the classroom after only a few years? (00:03:03). American society undermines the important role that teachers play in the lives of students, and this directly explains the lack of cultural respect for teaching as well as their poor salary rates. These injustices in the workforce prompted the creation of The Teacher Salary Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for improving teacher conditions, such as creating competitive salaries. The project is comprised of national campaigns, an online resource site, and the documentary, American Teacher. Their website states: “The film’s narrative balances the personal stories of each character with a mixture of interviews and animated facts and statistics by Stefan Nadelman, each highlighting the big sacrifices made by our nation’s teachers, and how these demanding costs force many of our greatest teachers out of the profession” (About the Project). The Teacher Salary Project aspires to make teaching a respected and desired career path by instilling excitement in the career and promoting financial sustainability. American Teacher has been reviewed by newspapers like The LA Times which characterized the documentary as “unsettling” (Turan 1), and The New York Times, which called it “heartfelt”, but criticized it for treating “pay as if it’s the only factor in educational dysfunction” and assuming “teaching is the most vital of the undercompensated jobs” (Genzlinger 1) Regardless of The New York Times critique, I believe American Teacher brings to life two important realities in the education system: we cannot expect success in classrooms if our teachers lack the financial ability to provide it and the cultural respect they need to ensure it.

American Teacher embraces the stories of teachers like Jamie Fiddler, Amanda Lueck, Erik Benner, Rhena Jasey and Jonathon Dearmon who endeavor to provide their students with the best means to succeed in an environment that offers them little to no assistance or compensation. For a profession capable with impacting the future of so many, the circumstances of such teachers have never been more unacceptable. Their paychecks, unions, credentials, and teaching styles have long been criticized. Misnomers have blinded policymakers and political leaders from being able to make the profession of a teacher both reputable and obtainable. American Teacher aims to finally clarify what it means to teach.

Senior V.P. of Fox News Channel, Neil Cavuto, claims teachers’ desire for
higher salaries and better conditions is out of

To begin, inefficiency is common in the public school system; many lack the proper resources for teachers and students, inevitably putting teachers in unfair positions. One teacher, Jamie Fiddler, of Brooklyn, New York, is victim to many of these financial burdens that go unrecognized. In her first year of teaching, Fiddler spent over $3,000 dollars of her own money on essential school supplies, and she isn’t alone. A shocking 90% of public school teachers pay for materials like markers and books out of their own pocket (00:07:11). Another teacher, Amanda Luek of Horace Mann Middle School in Denver, Colorado, describes the job of a teacher as a tiring lifestyle. There are constantly lesson plans to be made, homework to be graded, and classrooms to be reorganized. Luek’s classroom is too small for the number of students she has; consequently, some of her students have to sit on the counters. “There’s always more to do” says Luek, after another eleven hour work-day, and “it never feels like enough” (00:8:47). These two examples opened my eyes to aspects of teaching that go unnoticed and that are masked by politicians and policymakers who claim teaching is an easy and unimportant profession. Rather, teachers are responsible for more than they are given credit for. They do so much voluntarily simply to provide the bare minimum for their students.

View of Teacher Amanda Luek’s small classroom for her 40 students.


The financial demands of teaching are highly consequential in the long run. Erik Benner, a former history teacher and athletic coach at a Texas public school, was a popular teacher among students and faculty for his strong commitment to teaching and personable character. Benner, who instilled in his students a sense of commitment to learning, was dedicated to building a strong rapport with each student he taught. Nevertheless, with a teaching salary of $27,000, Benner was obligated to pick up a second job at a hardware store – a stress-inducing decision that lessened his time with his family and students (00:37:13). Eventually, when he was laid off from his second job, he was forced to quit teaching. His lack of sustainable income caused his house to go in foreclosure and years of financial tensions prompted a split in his marriage. Approximately 31%-62% of teachers must take on a second job. The low level of teacher salaries simply leave many with no other choice (00:41:09).

circuit city

Teacher, Erik Benner, working his second job at Circuit City



While the lack of respectable salary deters many from beginning or continuing to teach, the absence of prestige in the profession also suggests a shortage in the quality of teachers. Rhena Jasey, a Harvard graduate and former New Jersey school teacher, is one of the few top-college graduates to become a teacher. When she told her friends she wanted to teach, she paraphrased their replies in saying: “Anyone can teach. You went to Harvard. You should be a doctor or a lawyer. You should make money” (00:17:56). For her, teaching provides a dynamic, comprehensive role in the lives of students. Teachers constantly make decisions for their students that go far beyond the role of teaching. Thus, the complexity in the role of a teacher is significantly more challenging than it is portrayed to be. Jasey believes a teacher is simultaneously a counselor, parent, friend, and social worker. These many roles, however, go unrewarded, and Jasey’s former $40,000 salary showed it. No one would question the salary level for another profession, but because many do not believe a high skill set is necessary to be a teacher, few believe the state of teacher salaries is an issue. This, in itself, is alarming. If many talented, top-college graduates do not see teaching as a sustainable career because the profession lacks a strong reputation in relation to other degrees, whilst providing poor salaries, American students will continue to pale in comparison to the students in other countries and will not be able to fully meet their highest potential. Similarly, if our nation does not recognize that a high skill set is necessary in teaching, many will not see the hidden injustices in teacher salaries. The inability to attract bright graduates to the teaching profession is frightening. Without quality teachers, how can we expect quality students? Rhena’s credentials and character embody what the teaching workforce needs. “You don’t want your kids being taught by someone who went to Harvard?” she’d tell her family and friends (00:18:27). The social belief that bright professionals should not become teachers directly relates to why student achievement in America is low.


Teacher Rhena Jasey discusses the reputation of teaching

The reputation associated with teaching significantly decreases teacher quality and thus, student learning. There are far too many teachers unable to make ends meet, who work hours far above the presumed six hour work-day, that lack both financial and reputational compensation for all they do. Just as well, there are teachers, fatigued and frustrated, unwilling to continue in a profession that desperately needs talented people. Statistically, 20% of teachers in urban environments leave teaching every year, and 46% quit before their fifth year of teaching (00:47:36). The use of statistics like these in the documentary made it apparent how crucial it is that we re-examine the treatment of our teachers. This data provides a caveat to policymakers and reformers everywhere. When strong teachers leave the profession, children everywhere are negatively affected: an unacceptable and dismaying truth.

When teacher Jonathon Dearmon left the profession due to financial reasons, his students filled his chalkboard with notes to express their appreciation for him.dearmon

A 2011 study by the Hoover Institution indicates that an effective teacher has the capacity to give a year and half of learning in one year, demonstrating that the quality of the teacher can either drive up achievement levels or negatively impact the success of students. Hanushek states this by relating student achievement to the labor market: “For the average American entering the labor force, the value of lifetime earnings for full-time work is currently $1.16 million. Thus, an increase in the level of achievement in high school of a standard deviation yields an average increase of between $110,000 and $230,000 in lifetime earnings” (Hanushek 2). The standard deviation illustrates the amount of deviation that exists from the average. Similarly, Hanushek’s studies present a correlation between national economic success and effective teachers. They recognize that an effective teacher can drive up student achievement, improving American students as a whole and increasing the gross national product. However, if policymakers fail to recognize these very real correlations, the important variable of the teacher will never be truly acknowledged.


Some institutions have realized the importance of recruiting and maintaining quality teachers into the profession. Projects like The Equity Project Charter School, or TEP, pioneered by Zeke Vanderhoek, have started to change the perceptions of teaching by endeavoring to treat teachers with the respect and prestige they deserve. TEP starts teachers at a base salary of $125,000, made possible through public funds. One of the teachers hired was Harvard alum, Rhena Jasey. TEP’s website articulates their philosophy: “student achievement is maximized when teachers have the time and support to constantly improve their craft” (Philosophy). While many factors are comprised in evaluating student achievement, improving the standards and conditions for teachers substantially improves student performance.


teachersData proves that the countries with top performing schools and education programs, Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, also hold teaching to a high esteem.


Still, there is much to be done to reform teaching today. When discussing the unacceptable circumstances teachers encounter, Mark Bounds, the Deputy Superintendent for Educator Quality in South Carolina shares: “They’re not asking to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’re asking to be able to buy a house, to have a descent car, to live in a nice neighborhood, to have some comforts” (00:52:40). Ultimately, the battles that teachers face are not only policy problems, but also, social problems. The countries in the world with top-performing students and academic programs, Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, not only have funded teacher training, competitive salaries, and professional working environments, but they also culturally respect the role of a teacher – an occupation that outweighs the reputation of lawyers and doctors (01:06:02). If we are to see the true value of teachers, we must increase the incentives to teach, raising it to the same standards of other professions and socially recognizing that the job of a teacher is monumentally important in defining our nation.

In Chapter Seven of her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, titled “What Would Mrs. Ratliff Do?”, historian Diane Ravitch speaks of the problems teachers have faced for years. Many have criticized their tenure, unions, and methods that go beyond teaching to the test. Rather, Ravitch defends teachers in saying that union contracts and tenure protect the rights of teachers, ensuring that their salaries are based off their credentials and seniority, not the results of student tests (Ravitch 171). Ravitch reminisces about her high school teacher, Mrs. Ratliff, who instilled in her students a passion for literature and learning. Mrs. Ratliff was demanding, caring, and did not teach based on a test. Great teachers like Mrs. Ratliff are lacking today in our society because the career lacks incentives, like reputable salaries and because teachers are being forced to teach to the test. Therefore, our society must make a decision. Ravitch ponders this policy and social dilemma in stating, “as we expand the rewards and compensation for teachers who boost scores in basic skills, will we honor those teachers who awaken in their students a passionate interest….? If we fail to attract and retain teachers like Ruby Ratliff, will we produce a better-educated citizenry” (Ravitch 194)? It is in how policymakers and society answer these questions that will change the face of American education.

In the end, we must be aware that the effort needed to change teacher conditions concerns us all and that the lack of carrots for teachers is a true problem. To paraphrase Sabrina Laine, the Vice President for Educator Quality at the American Institute for Research, there are many benevolent aspects ingrained in teaching, but that does not justify their low salaries. Teaching isn’t about money, but that doesn’t mean teachers should be poorly paid (00:35:40). As the two film producers for American Teacher, Eggers and Calegari, declared in their New York Times Op-ed piece: “When we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, ‘It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefit plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!’ No, if the results aren’t there we blame the planners…. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition” (Eggers, Calegari 1). The same goes for teachers. If we expect American students to succeed, we must open our eyes to the way we are treating their educators. Only then, will we better improve the lives of school children and America altogether.

nationsThe low salaries and reduced conditions of teachers are directly correlated to decrease in student achievement in American schools



Works Cited:

“About the Project .” Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2014. .

American Teacher. Dir. Vanessa Roth, Brian McGinn. Prod. Ninive Calegari and Dave Eggers. Perf. Erik Benner, Neil Cavuto, Matt Damon. 2011. Documentary.

Eggers, Dave, and Nínive Clements Calegari. “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

Genzlinger, Neil. “What’s a Teacher Worth?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Hanushek, Eric A. “Valuing Teachers: How Much Is a Good Teacher Worth?” Hoover Institution: Stanford University. Education Next, 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

“Philosophy.” TEP Charter – Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.

Turan, Kenneth. “What the ‘American Teacher’ Has to Teach Us.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Harsh Realities of an American Teacher

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American Teacher is a heart-warming, yet heart-breaking, factual documentary dealing with the everyday lives of school teachers in America.  Our country, in general, does not respect our teachers.  The film delves into the lives of four teachers and shares their hardships and struggles with its viewers.  The goal of the documentary is to influence the viewer’s opinion on what it means to be a teacher in America.  Other countries place more value in the teaching profession. In America, being a teacher is associated with low economic status.  Americans need to be aware that our teachers are instructing the future of our country and is a vital profession!  American Teacher is an attempt to improve our educational system by changing the stigma associated with the American teaching profession and in turn, increasing the number of qualified teachers who can be proud of their personal accomplishments and socioeconomic status.

The documentary begins with an odd, yet disturbing, scene of an explosion; a perfect depiction of what has happened to the American school system.  (McGinn, Roth 0:00:08).  Personally I believe this was one of the most crucial scenes of the movie.  It foreshadows what is to come, which would be the demise of the school system.  The first of four teachers is introduced and is interestingly shown walking out of her small, run-down apartment in Brooklyn, New York.  Jamie Fidler begins her story by explaining how every expense from her classroom comes from her own pocket.  Jamie is pregnant and later on in the documentary, we learn more about the hardships of maternity leave because no one expects the spouse, also a teacher, to be the “money maker”.  Next, we meet Rhena Jasey, an enthusiastic young teacher, who eventually leaves her school to follow a program called the Tep Project to earn more money.  Erik Benner’s story is a bit sadder because he needs to teach, coach, and work at a tile store in order to support his family.  His ex-wife speaks in the course of the film and explains how she basically felt like a single parent because he was never around.  Lastly, we learn about a teacher named Johnathon Dearman.  Dearman has a passion for teaching just like the other three, however, due to the lack of a decent salary, gives up his teaching career to join the family real estate business.  All of these teachers tell a story and struggle with the career they love.  In order for the producers to portray their problem, they use very important charts that are extremely simple and easy to comprehend.

To elaborate on a major theme of persuasion, TEP, The Equality School Project, is an alternative to the current view of teachers in America.  TEP is designed to redistribute and shift money around to bring teachers to schools that need them, and pay teachers a better salary.  As well, TEP works to ensure the best quality teachers for a low income student body.  It is not only a series of investments, but the hopes are to keep the teachers not to just attract them.  In the film, TEP is seen as a very tempting alternative to the long work day in a poorly paid environment.  When looking further into the philosophy behind TEP, it becomes evident it was well thought out and personalized for its audience.   “TEP uses a three-pronged strategy that it terms the 3 R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, & Revolutionary Compensation.”  (Tepcharter 1). By implicating the TEP method, this is another attempt for the producers to persuade viewers view on what the profession of teaching should be.

American Teacher does more than just warn us about our country.  It relates the story of dedicated, intelligent educators.  These teachers love what they do, put in extensive hours despite popular belief, and in turn they receive little monetary reward.  The deeper rooted issue, embedded in the script of the documentary, is the lack of respect for the profession as a whole.  In other countries such as Finland, Singapore, and South Korea, aspiring teachers’ training is paid for.  (McGinn, Roth 1:05:29).  That means these teachers do not begin their careers in debt.  These countries value their teachers in society.  They have a very low rate of teachers switching careers.  The simple statistics which show the abandonment of the profession in the US serves to show the Nation’s view of its importance.  There is little emphasis on the profession as a whole if the passionate members are able to walk away from it.  Whether it is their personal choice or not, out nation makes it difficult for them to stay in comparison to other nations around the world.

Percentage of Teachers Who Leave the Teaching Percentage in Other Countries (1:06:15)
Percentage of Teachers Who Leave the Teaching Percentage in Other Countries (1:06:15)

This is due to the fact that their culture recognizes the importance of having strong teachers to educate future generations.  American Teacher points out the flaws within the American system.  After all, children are our future; so would it not be important to take pride and give respect to those responsible for the education of this precious resource?

However, Americans are taught to aim for higher paying jobs.  Rhena Jasey is a Harvard graduate and was told that being a teacher was a waste of a degree from Harvard.  In turn, she responded with a remark along the lines of “Would you not want your children to be taught by someone who went to Harvard?”  These four teachers embody the qualities that all teachers should have regardless of what country they live in.  Dearman is described as a teacher who holds all of his students to the same standards.  He told them what they needed to do, what they needed to learn, and who he wanted them to be by the end of his class.  These are the type of qualities parents want their children to be influenced by.  American Teacher shows the epitome of a quality teacher.  Once again, TEP is an attempt to ensure these types of teachers are available to those who are less fortunate and ensures they will stay with those children in underprivileged schools.  However, American Teacher also shows how difficult it is for these passionate individuals to stay with their profession.  How do we get these teachers to stay?  The answer in incentive other than pure joy of helping children.

The role of a teacher in America is highly influenced by gender roles.  There is a clear lack of respect, low pay, and something called the “burnout circle” as described by the teachers.  To begin, the society we live in is based on the assumption that the man in the relationship is meant to be the provider.  Therefore, in teaching, being a predominately female dominated field, it is “okay” to pay them less because their spouses will supposedly bring in more money. With this being said, males have existed the teaching force in order to live up to the stereotype of the “bread winner”.  It would be very difficult for a male to fully support his family simply on a teaching salary.  As well, it is thought that women have a maternal instinct that is better suited to teach children.  Truthfully, males and females can be great teachers but our society is socially constructed, which makes it difficult for men to stay in a “female profession”.  In addition, these teachers work more extensive hours than everyone believes.  On top of working ridiculous hours (most 7 to around 6), many teachers are in desperate need of a second job.  In fact, 62% of American teachers have a second job.  Does this really allow them to give their all in the classroom?

Percentage of Male Teachers (00:13:47)
Percentage of Male Teachers (00:13:47)

As well as having these compelling arguments as to why living the life of a teacher is quite difficult, I think the creators of the film make significant choices to make the audience feel even more sympathetic.  The teachers were chosen wisely.  There is one of Latino descent, one African-American descent, one white female, and one white male.  Most of the population was targeted which ensures the viewers will all relate to the issues and hardships these four underwent.  In addition, it is impossible for viewers to not have sympathy for a woman who just gave birth and a man who lost his wife and children in a divorce due to his low salary from teaching. The music is peaceful and coincides with the intense scenes to truly let viewers feel as if they are a part of the teachers’ lives.

Outside source, rotten tomatoes allows for outsiders to comment on the documentary.  Comments such as “Terrific, uplifting and heartbreaking study of what it’s like to teach in America today should inspire intense admiration and even more intense anger over what is revealed.” (David Noh).  However, while I think it is unanimous that this film is hear-breaking and heart-warming, there are also negatives to be noted.  The film is entirely one sided and does not look into an entire economic view on available money.  The movie does not tell the story of the rich, white, upper class.  It does not account for private schools and for children who are paying for their educations.

American Teacher’s original name started out as Come Back Mr. Dearman.  I believe the title was broadened to reach a wider variety of audiences.  Originally, the film was debuted in New York City and was praised for showing the public how hard the educators in our country work.  However, economists and other scholars followed by completley disagreeing with the movie’s plan.  They believed they should be able to hire any teacher regardless of their educational background and only raise his/her pay if test scores improve.  (Goodwin 1).  There is also research to show that merit pay does not necessarily correlate with an increase in school performance.  This would prove the entire movie to be false.  As well, teachers with high educational resumes appreciated and enjoyed this film.  This in itself, has sparked an intense criticism of Obama’s policies which benefit merit pay.  (Goodwin 2). I think it is also important to note, Matt Damon promoted this film and was the narrator.  He is one hundred percent part of the upper class and this has a large impact on the film’s audiences.  The entire film was funded by the Teacher Salary Project. This is a project to ensure “teaching becomes the prestigious, desirable, financially viable, and professionally exciting job we all know it needs to be.”  (TSP 2).   I think it is interesting to not TSP is a non-partisan organization, technically this should be the film would take no side.  However, this proves to be false.

Fortunately, American Teacher gets the main concern across which is, if we continue at the rate we are going, America will have few people willing to be educators and few quality educators to teach our future generations.  It reaches the hearts of every lower class American parent who wants the best for their children and it is easy to become very biased while watching this film.  Once again, the upper class is not accounted for and while it may alarm the parents there is little hope and opportunity that can be gained because they are not represented within the film.  The two audiences will definitely take different aspects away from the film.  An upper class parent may watch this film and be unaffected by the educational realities because his/her child is receiving a quality education.  To an extent, the emotional scenes will reach everyone, but the overall message is only alarming to those being affected by the lack of money.  Without looking at external factors, these facts seem troubling and appalling.  When watching, it is important to note there is a whole side of an untold story.  However, I think one point that all sides can agree on, is that the profession of teaching needs to be more nationally respected.

Epitome of American School System (0:00:08)
Epitome of American School System (0:00:08)


Works Cited

“American Teacher (2011).” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

“Full Cast & Crew.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

News, Liz Goodwin Yahoo. “‘American Teacher’ Film Argues Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough, but Ignores Merit Pay Debate.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

Roth, Vanessa, and Brian McGinn. American Teacher. Video documentary, 2011.

“TEP Charter – Philosophy.” TEP Charter – Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <>.

“The Teacher Salary Project.” The Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014. <>.