Monday, March 7, 2016

Heal Our Schools

From the director, Laurie Gabriel: 

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher by the age of five. With a hopeful gleam in my eye, I started my teaching career in 1984. As the decades passed, the control over how I did my job was gradually given to other people. Most of the time these people had no knowledge of who my students were or what my students needed. The people evaluating me had never seen me in action, or if they did, it was only for a couple of brief pop-ins to my classroom. 

“They were distant entities who were following formulas often developed by business people and other non-educators. These formulas became increasingly expensive and ineffective, and they were purchased with tax dollars. They were swapped out every couple of years for new, ‘improved’ plans.

“Toward the end of my career, my students and I were immersed in testing, test prep, and scripted curricula that I’d never dreamed of back in the eighties. Morale among teachers had plummeted due to the stifling of their opinions and the lack of input toward how they educated their students. Teachers were being blamed for the inefficiency of materials and tests they’d had no hand in creating. My peers were fleeing the profession all around me; some didn’t even make it through their first year. I saw my students losing their love of learning and their motivation to come to school. I saw them turning into oppressed drones instead of vibrant, creative beings. 

“These things were discussed daily in the teachers’ lounge, but the public remained unaware of the procedures that were being forced upon our schools. I wanted to change that. I bid a tearful goodbye to my students and set out to create a documentary that gave voice to the issues today’s teachers face. I found that our stories are the same from coast to coast, and I learned that there is a deep, frightening agenda for public schools that is engineered by profit-driven companies who partner with politicians to use our schools for their own gain, to the detriment of our future generations. 

“We need to be aware of this, and we need to stop it. Heal Our Schools features interviews with teachers across the country, along with commentary from some of the nation’s most prominent public education advocates, including Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, John Kuhn, Nancy Carlsson Page, Kwesi Rollins, Ceresta Smith, Anthony Cody, Kathleen Jasper, Gus Morales, Deneisha Jones, and Barbara Madeloni. 

“The film is divided into four lessons: 1. Children cannot be educated as part of a herd. 2. Teachers are not the only people responsible for a child’s success. 3. Students and teachers are people, not machines. 4. Teachers, not politicians or corporations, should make decisions about educating children. 

“Each lesson is followed by an ‘answer key’ that bullet-points teacher-generated solutions and concrete action plans. In an effort to change perspectives about teachers, I brought in three self-described teacher-haters and had them attempt to teach a class. As predicted, they floundered. In their closing interviews, they explained that their view of teachers had been transformed, one of them calling us ‘angels of God.’ 

“This is the effect I wish to have with the film: to show that teachers are caring, competent professionals whose agenda is to help students discover and develop their individual talents without the restrictions currently imposed upon them. Communities need to work together to come up with a clear vision of what they want their schools to be, and policy makers need to be held accountable for providing what the community demands. Please join the crusade to Heal Our Schools and consider screening the film in your area. Public screening rights are included with every DVD.”

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