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American Teacher (2011)

Matt Damon , Jamie Fidler , Vanessa Roth  |  NR |  DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Matt Damon, Jamie Fidler, Amanda Lueck, Erik Benner, Rhena Jasey
  • Directors: Vanessa Roth
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: First Run Features
  • DVD Release Date: February 14, 2012
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00668IEZ8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,245 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

{Directed by Oscar winner Vanessa Roth}
{Inspired by the New York Times bestseller "Teachers Have It Easy"}
{Produced by Best-Selling Author Dave Eggers ("A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius").}
{Endorsed by Teacher's Unions representing millions of teachers.}
{Seen as the answer to "Waiting for Superman" and "The Lottery".}
{Opened in theatres with an $8000+ per screen average in first week and rave reviews.}
{Microsoft's Partners in Learning has launched a community screening tour in more than 400 cities and towns across the country.}

As the debate over America's public schools rages on, the one thing everyone agrees on is the need for great teachers. Yet while research has shown that teachers are the most important in-school factor in a child's success, America's educators are so underpaid that almost two-thirds must work a second job in order to make a living.

Chronicling the stories of four teachers in different areas of the country, American Teacher reveals the frustrating realities of today's teachers, the difficulty of attracting talented new educators, and why so many of our best teachers leave the profession altogether. Can we re-value teaching and turn it into a prestigious, financially attractive and desirable profession? With almost half of American teachers leaving the field in the next ten years, now is the time to find out.


[5 stars]! This heartbreaking and essential film ought to be seen by anyone concerned about the fate of the public school system, and the nation as a whole. --Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

A terrific, uplifting and heartbreaking study of what it's like to teach in America today. --David Noh, Film Journal

Few movies can entertain, inspire, and bring back memories while looking toward the future. American Teacher is one such movie - watch it! --Katherine Bonnin, Encore Magazine

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A so-so look at what's wrong with teaching today... February 26, 2012
I'm a 5th grade teacher and watched this with the hopes that the problems of education would be beautifully elaborated in this documentary. Admittedly, I wanted support for my own arguments when I encounter someone who suggests my job is easy or, at least, not as hard as most other jobs out there. To put it simply, I was a bit let down.

The film follows a few educators, some of whom still work in the field and a few who have left due to the ridiculous demands of the job. Each one comes from a slightly different walk of life, but they all share the same problem: Teaching is tough. Well, most of us knew that already. Why is it tough? The film points out that having a newborn baby and finding time to pump breast milk don't coincide with a productive teaching day. It also suggests teaching can cause divorce, as is the case with one of these teachers who works evening jobs to make ends meet and doesn't appear to have enough time for his family. Yet another realized he could make more money in real estate.

I'm a fan of testimonials when it comes to explaining the woes of my profession, however I think this film would have had a more powerful message if it focused less on the individual stories of overworked teachers and more on national statistics. That's not to say there aren't some well made arguments in this film. One particularly effective moment was when the typical amount of time a teacher works each day was broken down, hour by hour. The narration even goes so far as to point out how grading an essay can exponentially take away a teacher's free time at nights and on weekends. Kudos there. Towards the end, another valid argument came from demonstrating how the treatment and respect of U.S. teachers compares to three of the top-ranked teaching nations in the world.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The challenges facing the public education system in America is a topic worthy of contemplation from every angle. There are so many contributing factors in the decline of our schools, it would be hard to address even a fraction of the issues in one forum. One thing that seems abundantly clear, however, (to me, at least) is that qualified teachers who are trying to make a difference tend to be undervalued. As someone who contemplated going into the field and student taught in the middle school arena, I appreciate the amount of work and commitment necessary to be an impactful and positive influence within the increasingly problematic public school system. While Vanessa Roth's heartfelt documentary "American Teacher" doesn't really try to address the more complex issues, it does focus on a small and diverse group of teachers (or former teachers) sharing their successes and trials. And the personal stories really do come together to give you a good overview of many of the issues facing teachers today.

The film, narrated by Matt Damon, showcases how the job of the teacher has evolved through the years to its current status. While it used to be a highly regarded position that people aspired to, it has systematically become less popular with a general lack of support and funding, below average salaries, and an enormous workload. It is still gratifying, of course, when you connect with the students--but shouldn't you be able to make a decent living in arguably one of society's most important jobs? While a large part of the documentary does focus on financial issues (these are, after all, personal stories), it is genuinely disheartening to see those that want to contribute to future generations make alternate life choices.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in Solutions May 2, 2012
By JeriWB
Teaching is a tough job. That much is made clear in the documentary American Teacher. It's a job that pays highly-educated professionals very little for such long hours. Teaching also requires great personal sacrifice, such as spending individual funds on classroom supplies, forgoing family time to attend school functions or grade papers, and even working a second or third job in order to barely cover the expenses of an average family.

The documentary brings attention to the popular public opinion that teachers have short workdays and lots of vacation time. In reality, the presumed workday of a teacher is 10-11 hours long, with another 15 hours spent on planning and grading at home, for a whopping 65-hour work week. As a former English teacher with six years of classroom experience, I can vouch for the accuracy of that estimate. One former teacher in the video referred to "the insane work hours" required.

Another popular opinion is that "anybody can teach." The Harvard grad featured in the video then asks, "Well who would you want to teacher your children then?" It's important to note that same teacher now works in a position at a charter school that opted to pay its teachers a yearly salary of $125,000 by finding ways to reallocate public funds.

Just a few enlightening statistics on the teaching profession included:
* 31% hold second jobs
* 62% hold second jobs if coaching and advising are taken into consideration.
* 46% quit before their fifth year.
* 20% quit at urban schools every year
* 14% less in pay is made compared to professions that require similar education.

At only 80 minutes, what American Teacher does not make clear are ways to alleviate the profession's woes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Arrived as described, on time, and no problems.
Published 2 months ago by Jens
5.0 out of 5 stars These are not the super teacher who spouts amazingly profound lessons...
American Teacher takes a look at the reality of being a teacher. These are not the super teacher who spouts amazingly profound lessons every minute or the bumbling idiots of the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mary Shortino-Buck
4.0 out of 5 stars Good movie
Moving and troublesome movie on what is happening in our country. But we have a long ways to go in this country.
Published 7 months ago by Stacy L.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good solution, bad reasoning
The documentary makes some good emotional appeals, but it is very one sides and ignores a lot of the issues in the larger educational debate.
Published 8 months ago by Uttuck
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it
very true portrayal of teachers in America i would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about being a teacher here in the US
Published 10 months ago by jacob
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives a great perspective
This is a good look for a graduate education class. My students enjoyed this and it was the foundation of some great conversations in seminar.
Published 11 months ago by Dr. C Patrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Perspective
I showed this documentary to my high school freshmen after they had complained one too many times about their teachers being "bogus" or not getting things back to them in a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jennifer Vazquez
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but kind of dull
I do love Matt Damon but this did not meet the mark for me....didn't float my boat. I use this type of film for my Philosophy of Education class and found it to be too eclectic to... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Sue Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great depiction of the struggles of An American Teacher
This movie is a must see for anyone concerned about teaching and where it is going in this nation. I highly recommend this movie!!
Published on October 5, 2012 by J. Masden
2.0 out of 5 stars Money and Time are not sufficient to evaluate a teacher or teaching
90 minutes of the same kind of discussion: money and time: Pay more for the people who devote more to their job than the usual full time person. Read more
Published on September 23, 2012 by T. Nick Fenger
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