Betsy Rafferty, a teacher at Bishop Hartley High School, attended last night’s Columbus premiere of the new education documentary Waiting for Superman. The documentary showcases the mechanisms of failure and incredible impact of outdated design and low expectations in our nation’s public schools – both urban and suburban.
Below, Betsy reflects on the film from her position as a teacher.
With a blend of personal anecdote, professional opinion, and clear explanation of the history and state of the education system, Waiting for Superman offers a fairly well-balanced documentary experience.
Those who have lived an experience of seeking equal access to education already know the personal stories will be engaging. As the documentary unfolds and we learn the hopes, dreams, and efforts of the individual students with whom we journey, we become emotionally invested in the lottery-based outcome of their educational paths. With this family lens, the documentary helps viewers identify with the urgency of the issue that affects students nationwide.
At the same time, the explanations of the education system – from charter and magnet schools to the history of the public school – were memorable and easy to follow. Those who came to the movie with a surface interest could leave with a fairly clear understanding of the hot-button issues in our current education system.
If the movie was meant to stir my emotions, the night was a success. I became interested, invested, frustrated, and inspired throughout the movie. The most frustrating aspects both relate to instincts that emerged when I was a young girl – instincts that tell me that now, as a teacher, every student is “my” student, and I will do everything within my power to secure what is best for my students.
The other most frustrating aspect came from watching education professionals like Howard Fuller and Michelle Rhee discuss their inability to remove ineffective educators from their classrooms. When scores of children are not being educated by an educator to whom they have been entrusted, that professional should be removed and allowed to find a different career. I believe in myself and fellow educators enough to invite the request, demand, and support for high expectations of us as professionals and our ability to uphold our commitments. My job is not my “right,” but my opportunity and responsibility.
Between the personal accounts, professional opinions, and clear explanations, Waiting for Superman does a great job of illustrating the system, which is, in fact, broken. So, what will we do, if this is to be a movie that not only stirs passion and inspires us to pledge, promise, and think but also to mend the system?
It can only be fixed with MAGIC: Making A Greater Individual Commitment. Your MAGIC may be different than my MAGIC, but it must be done.
- As an individual learner: Educate yourself on the issues and spread the word. Talk to friends, teachers, and legislators. Let them know you want strong options for our students, including support for schools and an increase in EdChoice vouchers (to avoid our own Ohio voucher lottery). Good places to start your education include: School Choice Ohio, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
- As a teacher: Continue to give your best and take advantage of helpful resources while meeting your students’ needs. One of the hot books to helping teachers prepare ALL students for college: Teach Like a Champion.
- As a financial donor: You can purchase books or school supplies for a classroom or contribute to a scholarship fund to help get kids into successful schools that can serve them. In Ohio, check the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund, Parents Advancing Choice in Education, and Children’s Scholarship Fund of Greater Cincinnati
- As a time donor: volunteer at a local school and mentor a student. Mentoring makes a huge difference.
- If you’re not sure: comment on this blog or contact School Choice Ohio. We’ll brainstorm together. Your MAGIC is important to the mission of educating our kids, and your passion is only as powerful as the MAGIC it inspires.
(Links added by SCO)