Passion to Teach, a Film Celebrating the Teacher-Student Dynamic – a Review by Mercedes Schneider

By Mercedes Schneider | Originally published on Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog | 2017 | Follow Mercedes Schneider @deutsch29blog Syndication made possible through Patreon.

Review by Mercedes Schneider

I just finished viewing the 90-minute film, Passion to Teach, which I was asked to review by its producers, career teachers, Bart Nourse and Sandria Parsons.

A five-minute trailer is available here:

The film focuses on the experiences of Connecticut middle school teacher, Amy Lake. A central theme of Passion to Teach is the indispensability of the teacher-student relationship in fostering intrinsically-motivated, lifelong learning in students and the symbiotic nature of the teacher-student dynamic as one that contributes to lifelong learning in career teachers.

Other noteworthy contributors include

  • Ann Lieberman, noted teacher educator and author of Teacher Learning and Leadership
  • Divans Hutchinson, middle school teacher and recipient, Outstanding Teacher award, NAACP Los Angeles
  • Rob Fried, education professor and author of The Passionate Teacher,and
  • Maurice Gibbons, classroom teacher, professor, and author of the Self-Directed Learning Handbook. Gibbons’ article, “Walkabout: Searching for the Right Passage from Childhood and School,” is the all-time most requested reprint at Phi Delta Kappan.

Passion to Teach is a phenomenal film that poignantly defies the processed-food-product nature of top-down, politically-popular, test-score-centered education reforms.

I have two favorite parts. The first involves an assignment in which students and volunteer adults recreate immigrant arrival at Ellis Island and the subsequent application process for gaining US citizenship.

The second involves the end of the film, an ending that celebrates the teacher-student connection that extends well beyond a student’s time in a beloved teacher’s classroom.

However, the major point of the Parsons-Nourse film is not merely to celebrate the teacher-student relationship. It is to fuel pro-public-school activism.

As Nourse writes:

First, to be sure, our movie is just a piece of the story of ed reform. The focus of the story of Passion to Teach is on an individual as a metaphor for timeless, passionate teaching. The context of the story is institutional reform.  So, our movie is part of a work in progress, one for the long haul.  But that work always begins with a teacher.

And, second, there is the question of action after reading a book or watching a movie.  Writing letters, protesting, and joining with others are important actions.  Many such actions (and here is where we are heading) need to lead to elections and to legislation.  Democratic power lies in law-makers and laws that empower public opinion.

The state-by-state march of [US Secretary of Education Betsy] DeVos and other oligarchs and ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) amount to disastrous educational policies… but effective political strategies.  We must fight fire with fire.  We must organize second to none.  Those who would strengthen public education must strengthen their own power and legitimacy vis-a-vis the public who elects its reps.  This is how democracy works.

There are many ways to advocate for candidates, to legislate for public education.  But one way is this:  Write state legislation that constructs, brick by brick, a true teaching profession.  True professions, like doctoring and nursing, have a measure of self-regulation (e.g. overseeing certification, professional development, peer review).  Ballot initiatives advocated by teacher and parent leaders and those closest to children, laws that are intended to professionalize teaching, might well effect the enduring renewal of our workforce and our public schools.  As it is now, generations of students are bouncing back and forth with transient politics.  Our young people deserve better.

The above are critical parts of the trajectory that we hope to follow public viewings of Passion to Teach.

And I am pleased to add that the film is available for public showings through school districts, schools of education, community organizations at the modest cost of $365 per viewing– an institutional cost for an institutional venue.

To find out more about upcoming screenings in the works in Michigan, Florida, Massachusetts, and Vermont, feel free to email the producers at info@maverick2mainstream.org.

In order to find out more about hosting a screening, go to passiontoteach.org and click on the link, “host a screening.”

Related: Garn Press Education Books

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