When I saw the trailer for Vice Principals, I sighed deeply. I felt nauseated by yet another completely ridiculous representation of the teaching profession. The most vanilla examples: Duty free lunch? Teachers hanging out in the faculty lounge? Personal adult conversations that last longer than a six minute class change? Please.
Okay, fine. Vice Principals is actually hilarious. My appreciation hinges on the absurdly unbelievable nature of the show, which frees me from the concern of misrepresentation. Satire at its finest.
Yet at the same time, teachers are desperately searching for accurate media portrayals of the profession we have committed our lives to. We depend on media to broadcast what we see on the front lines every day because we depend on voters to make informed decisions that will benefit students.
Imagine my excitement to learn of a teacher-made documentary starring a real life teacher. Even better, the team At Large Productions recently received a sizable grant from the National Education Association Foundation to help finish the documentary film, titled Teacher of the Year. The grant funds will cover half of the film’s post-production budget, and the filmmakers have launched a 45-day Kickstarter campaign to pay for remaining costs.
Rob Phillips, an English teacher, and Jay Korreck, an instructional coach, have been working on the feature-length film since 2013 when they began following Raleigh, NC history teacher and former Teacher of the Year, Angie Scioli. Full disclosure: Phillips and Scioli are my colleagues who I respect immensely.
The film juxtaposes Scioli’s quest for perfection as a teacher, mother, and burgeoning Red 4 Ed and Moral Monday activist with the simplistic portrayals of teachers in Hollywood films.
Here’s Phillips, the film’s co-director:
Teachers are often presented as either heroes or hacks and our film explores how the oversimplifications, illuminated by the scholars we interviewed, reveal and reinforce problematic notions about what teachers really do. We hope our film will lead people to question how media portrayals impact real teachers, socially, economically, and perhaps politically.
Teachers, please join me in supporting accurate portrayals of the teaching profession. Community members, I urge you to ask a teacher to share their perspectives on media content. Just make sure you have an escape plan ready; we’re professional educators after all.
The film will premiere on March 2, 2017 at the Teachers, Teaching, and Media Conference at Wake Forest University. For more information about the film or how to support their fundraising efforts, visit teacheroftheyearfilm.com or follow the film on Facebook @teacheroftheyearfilm.
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