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CBS Movie Follows Teachers

“Teach” is Director Davis Guggenheim’s third documentary on education in America, and focuses on the question, “What does it take to be a good teacher?” It is similar to his 2001 film “The First Year,” in which he followed around five first-year L.A. Unified School District teachers for a year. It is the film he should have produced in 2010, but instead he gave us “Waiting for Superman.”

Guggenheim’s “Teach” airs in a two-hour time slot on CBS this Friday, September 6, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (check local listings.) During commercial breaks, look for information on a new website,, promoting teaching as a career. NEA is represented on the advisory board of

The four teachers portrayed are inspiring individuals, much like the millions more who teach America’s students every day, facing the same challenges and having to solve the same problems.

Guggenheim’s thesis is that “great teachers make great schools.” This is a less combative film than Guggenheim’s “Waiting for Superman” which demonized public education, teachers union, and teachers. With “Teach,” Guggenheim makes “amends” to those who harshly criticized “Waiting for Superman,” in 2010.
“Teach” follows four teachers as they work to reach their students, receive advice from their principals, prepare their lesson plans, and receive reviews. The documentary follows the educators who use a variety of methods to teach different subjects and age groups. The documentary profiles Matt Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at McGlone Elementary School in Denver; Joel Laguna, a tenth-grade AP world history teacher at Garfield High in Los Angeles; Lindsay Chinn, a ninth-grade algebra teacher at MLK Early College in Denver; and Shelby Harris, seventh-grade math teacher at Kuna Middle School in Kuna, Idaho.
“Teach” is a good film with a simple thesis: “great teachers make great schools.” It tells a compelling story about the challenges and rewards of the teaching profession, but it leaves unanswered “How do we attract, support, and retain more professionals like these to the classroom?” An NEA analysis found that while “Teach” accurately conveys the message that “great teachers” make “great schools,” there is too little emphasis in the film on the need to provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to help their students achieve.
What’s also not addressed is the difficulty many teachers have making ends meet and being able to stay in the profession they love. For that story, check out “American Teacher,” a documentary (now available online and on DVD.) Salaries and stress are among the top reasons teachers say they leave the profession. A good teacher has the power to change the course of a life—yet because teachers in the United States have historically had an average annual salary lower than their peers with similar educational backgrounds, 62 percent of our nation's teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom-like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, or bartending—to be able to afford to teach.
Education Week’s Review of “Teach”




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