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American Teacher 2011 TV-G CC

(23) IMDb 6.7/10
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Weaving interviews of policy experts with the lives of four teachers, American Teacher reveals startling truths about the challenges facing teachers in classrooms across our country.

Erik Benner, Neil Cavuto
1 hour, 20 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Vanessa Roth, Brian McGinn
Starring Erik Benner, Neil Cavuto
Supporting actors Matt Damon, Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Dearman, Jamie Fidler, Rhena Jasey, Gregory Peters, Rachel Russell, Loran Simon, Zeke Vanderhoek
Studio Warner Bros.
MPAA rating TV-G
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 24 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Villabob on February 26, 2012
Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By JeriWB on May 2, 2012
Format: DVD
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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