California Educator

October 2011

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE 'AMERICAN TEACHER' Q&A: NINIVE CALEGARI STUDENTS DEVELOP APP 22 24 26 ARRANGE FOR SHOWINGS OF THIS MOVIE IN YOUR COMMUNITY AT WWW.THETEACHERSALARYPROJECT.COM. FILM: 'AMERICAN TEACHER' DOCUMENTARY EXAMINES THE REALITY OF A PROFESSION NEGLECTED FILMS ABOUT TEACHERS often tend to be stereotypical in nature. Waiting for Superman blamed "bad teachers" for being complacent and ineffective. Other mov- ies — Freedom Writers, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds — portray teachers as self-sacrificing saints eager to take a vow of poverty. American Teacher is more realistic. The film shows that the majority of teach- ers are smart, resourceful, hardworking, and doing the best they can in challenging cir- cumstances. Instead of playing the blame game, the film makes a strong case that our teachers — who are responsible for educat- ing America's future generations — deserve to be valued, supported, and paid what they are worth. DID YOU KNOW ? High turnover of American teachers costs our country over $7 billion every year. Teachers are priced out of home owner- ship in 32 metropolitan areas. Teachers work an average of ten hours per day. 92.4 percent of teachers spent their own money on their students or classrooms during the 2007–08 school year. 62 percent of teachers have second jobs outside of the classroom. 22 California Educator / October 2011 The documentary is based on the book Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers (New Press 2005) authored by journalist and teacher Daniel Moulthrop, writer Dave Egg- ers, and Ninive Calegari, a former teacher and co-founder of 826 National, a student writing center. The film is narrated by actor and outspo- ken public school supporter Matt Damon and profiles several American teachers, including Jonathan Dearman of California. The teachers love what they do, but struggle financially. They teach different grade levels and subjects in various states, but wrestle with a common question: Can I afford to continue to teach? Some live frugally while others make the gut-wrenching decision to leave the profes- sion and take jobs they are not passionate about so they can earn a livable wage, which is devastating to their students. Others take secondary jobs in retail or elsewhere and suffer the effects of having too little time for their families. The movie attributes low pay for teach- ers to the fact that teaching was one of the few careers available to women in past decades. While that is no longer the case, salary remains low. We also learn that the average starting salary is $39,000 and grows to $67,000 after 25 years in the profession, excluding educators from the housing mar- ket in many areas. According to the film, a teacher's starting salary is not that much lower than entry- level salaries in other professions. It's the ending salary that is mostly to blame for the We have to help Americans see how unbelievably intertwined our democracy and our economy are with the teaching profession. Ninive Calegari fact that 46 percent of teachers quit before their fifth year of teaching. And it's difficult to attract talented college graduates to the profession with the promise of low pay, long hours, and little support. One of the teach- ers profiled, a Harvard graduate, is asked by friends and family why she would choose to go into a profession so lacking in money and prestige when she could have her pick of better-paying jobs. The movie offers a realistic portrayal of teachers who work long hours, buy supplies out of their own pockets, strive to do their best for students, and sometimes neglect themselves and their own families in the

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