A TOUCH OF GREATNESS
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1/12/05
What an amazing loss when he died. I know that many generations of teachers could have soaked up his knowledge and put it in play in the classroom.
1/12/05
Catonsville MD
I was brought to tears by Albert Collum's last quote at the end of the documentary. Albert Cullum's love for children and teaching should be an inspirational source for all parents and children to fight for our public schools (and against No Child Left Behind legislation.)

My wife is a first grade teacher in the Maryland public school system. The county where she works forces her to keep her first grade children at their desks for endless hours monotonously memorizing facts. This is all part of the No Child Left Behind initiative. There is very little chance for teachers to find time for children different learning needs in their classes. NCLB says one size fits all.

One school district in Maryland changed scores on Maryland's national assessment tests to improve scores and the administrator's reputation (who happens to be a close colleague of Rod Paige). Most schools "teach to the test." This is an affront to our children and disservice to their futures. Is NCLB's purpose is to destroy our public schools?

Our children deserve a public school system inspired with the caring, understanding and genius Mr. Cullum shared with his students.

Mr. Cullum makes it clear, we should attend to our child's world to make learning meaningful to them.
1/12/05
Rosalie Romano
Athens, OH
Albert Cullum is an inspiration to all educators who entered our profession to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. Teaching from the heart to cultivate the mind requires us to hold fast to the vision of education worthy of its name.

I plan to use Mr Cullum's teaching and this film as examples to my prospective teachers as an example of a great teacher.

Thank you for this documentary on an extraordinary educator of our times.

Rosalie Romano
College of Education
Ohio University
1/12/05
Shivani Baker
I was a student in Mr. Cullum's class, and often remember his wonderful eccentric style. He was willing to try anything to engage us. I loved the poetry sessions we had,( where he would throw candy at us) and the plays. He would bring in art prints by the great artists and have a contest to see who could remember the titles and painters. Whoever remembered the most would take home a print. I LOVED his class, he was never afraid to try new things with his students. Now I have 3 daughters and I only wish they had a teacher as great and imspirational as Mr. Cullum.
1/12/05
Pamela Stagg-Jones
I was thrilled to watch this film of such a great teacher. It was an excellent balance of 'show how you do it' and 'tell how you do it.' I am a PhD student researching outstanding teachers and why their students thought they were. Your programme gave me a great deal of information for my work. I would love to read the answers to your last question about how teachers made a difference. Is there any way I could access those comments?
1/12/05
Richard Ginn
I watched the show last night was VERY impressed by what I saw.

Albert Cullum was a wonderful teacher. He was a teacher I would have liked to have. So many teachers now days are teach to the test, teach to the test, and they take all the fun out of learning.

Albert Cullum is right, if you the teacher is not having fun the students are not having fun as well.

I loved that he wanted all his students to do Shakespeare at such a young age. I loved that he did not want to skip any words too.

He made students happy to go to school which I think is not an easy thing to do.

Two big gigantic thumbs up to the people that created this documentary.
1/12/05
Jeanette Briggs
Port Chester, NY
It was exciting to turn on the TV last night and see film footage of children performing at Midland School and Oakland Beach in the nearby town of Rye, NY. I was amazed at the way these kids emoted. Their acting seemed much less inhibited than that of most of the youngsters who performed "Macbeth" in my son's fourth-grade class back in 1995. Yet, his class still did a good job, and--30 years after Mr. Cullum's successful productions--it was still considered a strange undertaking for such a young age group.

Thanks for drawing attention to the fact that teaching and learning should be fun and that we shouldn't underestimate the potential of younger students.
1/12/05
Sharleen Leahey
Somerville, New Jersey
After watching "A Touch of Greatnesss" I could not stop the tears flowing from my eyes. I have rarely been so touched by a documentary. I immediately called my daughter who just started teaching second grade in New York City. The most disturbing discovery she made was the removal of art and music from the new curriculum. I think every school administrator should see this program. We need to change direction and Albert Cullum's legacy should be a major signpost.
1/12/05
Cathy Davis
Norwalk, CT
Last evening, January 11th I had the extraordinary luck to tune in to the program. Mr. Cullum is a former teacher of mine at Osborn School, I distinctly remember how he inspired all of us in our productions. Without him I would not know the lines "double,double toil and trouble fires burn and coldruns bubble" I wish I had known about the reunion. He was an inspiration to all. I speak of him even today. He had a wonderful relationship with my mother who always wanted to be an actress. What a great program, it brought back wonderful memories. I recognized everything!!!!
1/12/05
Eileen Boland
Barton, Vermont
I am the director of after-school programs at seven rural schools in northeast Vermont. I was glued to the television last night - the film was beautiful - the man extraordinary.

In this age of rigid attention to skills and scores, I have been looking for a way to illustrate the potential of after-school programs to engage, excite, and liberate students. Sharing the film with our staff will provide that spark.
1/12/05
Jane Cass
Elma, NY
What needs to occur in a "major battle" in order to rescue our children from the sour feeling that dissuades them form the persuit of happiness and truly meaningful lives? Intense emotion. The kind of emotion that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and take notice. The kind of emotion that needs to reach a mass audience through visual images like the ones in this documentary that convince tired parents like myself to come up for air through the chaotic din of our daily lives and make commments that release us unto ourselves. Emotion that gives us voice and the persuit of happiness ourelves, and the realization that we can give that to our children, too, regardless of what our public school system has tried to cement into our daily existence.

What else would need to occur to rescue our kids? Intensity. Intensity of the visual images in A touch of Greatness. The intensity of music and the universal access of its primal language, and the respect for the power of its language through the greater incorporation of its tenets within our schools. The conductor Daniel Barenboim says "to play an instrument, you must find a balance between your brain, your heart, and your stomach." Wouldn't it be wonderful if our brains, hearts, and stomachs weren't ignored when we enter the first day of kindergarten?

Who do we need to rescue our kids? People like Albert Cullum, Daniel Barenboim, and the great poet and educator Loris Malaguzzi who experienced the intensity of emotion that inspired him six days after the end of the Second World War to rush to the town of Reggio Emilia on his bike and join the endeavors of parents who had decided to build and run a school for young children form the proceeds of the sale of an abandoned war tank, a few trucks, and some horses left behind by some retreating Germans. Intense emotion, and a resulting bike ride,resulted in the simple liberating thought, that "things about children and for children are only learned from children."
1/12/05
Celest
Sac, CA
A touch of greatness was wonderful to watch the last half hour and see an innovative teacher at work. His teaching style was indepth and unconventional. Reminded me of the film Dead Poets Society but the difference was Mr. Cullum's had a boldness and uncompromising spirit which kept him focus so he could really bring out the greatness in his students.

Greatest accomplishment is to see your students utilize innovation within their teaching style so they can gain same results but more appropiate and relevant to student's needs in the learning process.
1/12/05
Paul Seif
San Francisco, CA
As the last seconds of "A Touch of Greatness" pass before my eyes (eyes filled with tears of gratitude and mourning for Albert Cullum) I can hardly believe what I have just seen and I feel so lucky to have watched this documentary.

I am moved beyond telling and I feel like Albert has allowed me to share in the same expansion of experience and learning as his students decades ago. He has touched me deeply.

His spirit is completely the human spirit and his courage and natural passion, his willingness to love and hold his children sacred, sets a standard for all of us to honor.

In a cynical world, in our wealthy nation with almost twenty percent of its children living in poverty, Albert's legacy is simple- tap into your humanity, remember your youthful curiosity and act! If we truly cared about each other as Albert did his students we would indeed act boldly to improve our world.
1/12/05
Please show this movie again soon. Please show it at various times of day so that children and parents can see it. When parents see what is possible for their children, perhaps they will rise up within themselves and refuse mediocrity. As a homeschooling family, we will start with Shakespeare right away, now that we have seen Mr.Cullem's brave example. My four-year-old and my 8-year-old were entranced by the sight and sound of young children playing these serious roles. This film is a stimulating catalyst and should be widely seen. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!
1/12/05
Cindy Noland
Austin, TX
The student of Albert's who grew up and became a teacher remarked that certain populations of students were being prepared to be fry-cooks. At the school where I taught 6th grade, I used to say they were being prepared for the jail down the street. Always in trouble for my classroom being loud and kids not being in their seats, facing the front and only listening, my school failed to certify me as an alternative teacher certification candidate. They considered teaching methods putting the children in charge of their learning to be failures. The focus there was on walking in straight, silent lines down the hall and passing those ever-present tests.

I've read that there is an ever-present tension in the fight for public school pedgogy between the creatives, who constitute 1/4 of the teaching population, and the traditionalists, who make up the other 3/4. It's amazing we accomplish as much as we do, considering the odds are always against us. Keep up the good fight, teachers, for the sake of our kids and the sake of our future.
1/12/05
T. Carty
Freedom N.H.
Wonderful, Beautiful, Inspiring. All very nice words and praise coming from the same people whom are responsible for the pidgeonholing of our children. Our children have the personalities of a keyboard on a laptop. What else would you expect from an selfish educational system that is more concerned with the amount of snow days that need to be made up.
1/12/05
T.S. Lamb
Pontaic Michigan
What a fabulous program showing that learning should be a wonderful experience.

The 'major battle' that David Pugh mentions is indeed worrysome. To think that memorizing a bit of information for a test is more important than challenging and creating within young children a love of learning. I think teachers are becoming afraid of their classes and the parents are not helping. Perhaps we can start by bringing more creativity into the class again, challenging the children again.

Typical teachers: I was blessed with many wonderful teachers through out the years. 4th grade Ms. Pratt: who taught a 4th/5th split class managed to keep all those different children interested and excited to come to class. She took us outdoors and moved the desks about forming islands for different geography lessons. She even brought in some of her beloved owls to teach us. The best teachers never have a stagnant classroom.

Thank you
1/12/05
Jean Cagianello
I just finished watching the program on PBS. Every child in the world deserves a Mr. Cullun for a teacher.

The video, which I immediately ordered, should be made available to every teacher as well as those students who aspire to become teachers.
1/12/05
Junction City, Kansas
"INSPIRATIONAL" is such an inadequate description of Albert Cullum, but I was truly inspired.

The PBS presentation of "A TOUCH OF GREATNESS" is a must see for every educator who feels confined by the mundane and mindless element of "No Child Left Behind".

Every child deserves and Mr. Cullum in their lives. Break the chains, free your inner child.

Thank you Mr. Cullum!
1/12/05
Heather Pituch
Toledo OH
I am in the Early Childhood Education program at the University of Toledo. I was just browsing through the TV and came across this program. To better understand my position I must first confess that I have a fear; my fear is that I might someday become a mediocre teacher who is there because it is a paycheck or something to occupy my time. With this in mind I felt driven, in such a tremendous way, not to succomb to the implications made by virtually all of my professors. As I've gone through my degree I've been set afire to be an exciting teacher and to challenge my students, only to have that fire drenched shortly after by being told that that type of teaching is almost extinct because we now must "teach to the test." For a while I have felt that what they claim is not true! Albert Cullum is proof of that. His story has once again lit that fire inside of me. I refuse to accept the notion that we must teach to any test. I think that teachers need to look beyond the curriculum books and need to challenge themselves to make learning fun. I wish that my professors would show videos of Mr. Cullum and his work in order that more might be as inspired as I am.
1/12/05
Christopher Lorn
Austin, Texas
Coming upon this program on a late Tuesday night, I was inspired by Albert Cullum's initiative to teach from the norm, and in turn help each child discover their true potential. I an currently attending a high school which, in just 4 short years, has come from having perhaps the highest academic repuation in the area to a point where administrators are pushing student to even graduate with a "commit program." I just believe if time is taken in our district to help each student indivdually discover his/her own true potential, much as Albert Cullum did, and not just absorb facts, each student would have more to look forward to in life than just achieving their minimal "greatness."
1/12/05
Karl Kraus
New York, NY
An inspiring look at a man who dared to have faith in children and their inate hunger for learning. It should be required viewing for teachers and administrators. The major battle that Mr. Pugh refers to has a number of fronts--some material and others spiritual. A Touch of Greatness offers us some clues as to how to wage the battle on the spiritual front.
1/12/05
Eddie
Miami, Fl
That was the most beautifully inspirational thing I have ever seen.
1/12/05
Noel E. Parmentel Jr
LeslieSULLIVAN&CatherineGUND

This evening I watched (on CPTV & for the first time) your extraordinary film A TOUCH OF GREATNESS While I never had the honor of meeting Professor Cullum., I had heard of him thru my close friend Father James Flye of Saint Luke's.. Since your film should be made available to anyone contemplating teaching children, perhaps the NEA ( to atone for their sins) could "make this happen":. Meanwhile, my congratulations on a magnificent accomplishment.
1/12/05
Brooklyn,New York
Dear Independent Lens,

I want to thank you for this extraordinary film. I feel that if there were more teachers like Mr. Albert Cullum,more children would take a greater interest in school,and the education that it can provide.

If my daughter had been blessed to have a teacher like Mr. Cullum,she would never feel like she cannot succeed.She would feel like she could do anything,because her teacher cares.

Thank you for proving to me once again,that there are teachers who are willing to reach out to their students and abandon conventional educational tools,and go for the gold!

A job well done. God Bless you all.
1/12/05
What a wonderful film about an inspiring and obviously brilliant man! I'm quite jealous that I never had a teacher like Mr Cullum.

Congraulations to the filmmakers, who managed to conveyed Cullum's sense of wonder and determination in how he was teaching his students through the years.
1/12/05
Mary E. Culver
Deerfield, MA
Thank you Albert Cullem!!!!
Thank you Robert Downey Sr.!!!!
Thank you Leslie Sullivan and Catherine Gund!!!!

It's so difficult to express what this documentary means to me as an elementary teacher. Yes, I AM A TEACHER! I am a teacher even though I've taken a break from the system to regain my strength. After three years of teaching with such a similar philosophy, with such tremendous support from my principal, I held on to the child within me, knowing that this was how I would grow and learn in and outside of my classroom. I found in my fourth year, however, with a new principal, just how difficult and seemingly impossible it was for me to continue to clash with her practices that so openly denied children's "Greatness," and used ridicule and punishment as primary actions of discipline. I crumbled under her authority and left knowing that my crushed sense of self-esteem would not serve me or the children well. But I'll be back. I'll be back to facilitate my and each child's journey to discover, explore, and embrace out greatness. They deserve it as do each and every one of us.
1/12/05
Kathy Gilbert
trumbull Ct
wow. I work in a special ed. school for emotionally disturbed kids. This was fantastic! I am studying to be an administrator and this was a wonderful program about creative teaching especially in this era of no child left behind! I also appreciated the honesty of how truly radical it is to teach children to think !!please tell his books are not out of print!!!
1/12/05
Jacqueline Ancess
New York, NY
This is the authentic no child left behind.
1/12/05
Cathy
Connecticut
So that is what Leslie is up to these days !! I remember Cullum and Director Leslie during our Stonehill days. You were both characters !! Congrats Leslie on the film.
1/12/05
Mary Smeallie
Watching this program and the extraordinary methods of Albert Cullum reminded me of my own fourth grade teacher. It is so sad that professional jealousies exist in education. It drives away the truly gifted teachers. Our educational system needs to move away from its dependence on and its celebration of rote learning. As an art teacher today myself I always tell people that my methods rely more on drawing out what already exists in a child rather than filling them with a myriad of facts. Experience remains our greatest teacher.
1/12/05
Peter Konsterlie
Bridgeport,CT
The Film "A Touch of Greatness" should be a required veiwing for all who are pursuing educational careers.
1/12/05
Steve Gauthier
Fairfield, CT
Mr. Cullum was a superb craftsman of the art of instruction, that is to say opening the imagination to the vistas of knowledge, not entraping children in rooms with walls and doors.

"No Child Left Behind" ,Boards of ED and current pedagogy simply don't understand this. Is this our continuing legacy to our children?
1/12/05
Deborah Ott
Weatogue, CT
Thank you for showing the Albert Cullum film. As a teacher myself, one who questions her effectiveness in the classroom every day, the film was a deeply moving affirmation of what a teacher can be. I would like to honor, in this space, the greatness of Miss Elizabeth Hart, my former AP English teacher at Brighton High School in Rochester, New York, in the 60's and early 70's. I remember how much she demanded of us, how well she knew the classics, how quick she was with the wry comment, how lovingly she poured over each one of our essays. Miss Hart spoke to us on paper the way she spoke to us in the classroom: with respect, humility, honesty, and a love for literature and writing. I was absolutely infected. I became an English teacher myself, and she is the biggest reason I did so. And guess what ignites my students' interest the most? When I act out Oedipus Rex, the scene where he gouges out his eyes, to later wander the earth, "seeing" for the first time. The students, no matter what the age, want to know more. Miss Hart inspired me with that story, and it just had to live on.

Anyway, thanks again for a fabulous showing.
1/12/05
rick
ny, ny
It would be great if you could have some of his books in your PBS Online store. I checked amazon.com and barnes and noble, but they do not have them. thanks.

Push Back the Desks
(MacMillan, 1967)
This classic book contains innovative ideas for elementary school grades and curricula, including the "grammar hospital" seen in A TOUCH OF GREATNESS.
1/12/05
Sean Dwyer
New York, New Yrol
Before tonight, I had never heard of Albert Cullum. After seeing "A Touch of Greatness," I offer a turn on Henry David Thoreau's "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Mr. Cullum's legacy is that "Some people lead lives of quiet joy and genius."
1/12/05
Jeri LeRoi
Traverse City, Mi
In watching A TOUCH OF GREATNESS I begin to wish I had been a student in his class. In our search to improve the education we need to look back at the results of Albert Cullum and duplicate his methods. I only wonder if the methods would be successful without the loving heart and youthful soul of Mr Cullum.
1/12/05
South Hadley, MA
I have often thought that children's imagination is not being captured and encouraged. Not being a teacher I was unsure that I was accurate. A Touch Of Greatness enabled me to see how clear my assessment was. I think what needs to occur in the major battle against miseducation would be to uproot the whole system. Just as the FBI and the CIA needed to be revamped after uncovering the major system flaws resulting in 9/11, the changes in education are long overdue.
1/10/05
Bryna Rifkind
San Francisco, CA
I had the opportunity to hear Albert Cullum speak at Lesley College more than 30 years ago and still consider him one of the most influential educators. He inspired me to "push back the desks," and helped to shape a philosophy of education that I still adhere to today. His approach to Shakespeare as the "greatest storyteller," helped me to turn hundreds of elementary students (K-6) developed a love of Shakespeare. As a university instructor, I continue to include his books on my reading list and have often lent my copies to student teachers.
1/7/05
Barbara L Boyer
Bellevue,ID
I am so excited about this upcoming program. I used Albert Cullum's book "Shake Hands With Shakespeare" when I taught 5th grade. It was wonderful- I did MacBeth with two classes and Julius Caesar with two.The children were terrific and I hope, these many years later, that they remember our fun! Thank you!
1/5/05
Nan
Oconomowoc, WI
Living in today's box society, it was inspiring to see someone reach outside the norm and take their students with them. I hope it inspires and excites today teachers. My teacher friends in their 40's and 50's seem so tired and worn. I'm sharing the PBS site with teachers I know.
1/3/05
Michael Collins
Eau Claire, WI
The expose on Albert Cullum I watched this Sunday morning was extraordinary. I am a high school English Teacher and was inspired by Cullum's work and message. What a truly remarkable man! I did not get to view the expose in its entirty, but I can't wait to see it again. Every aspiring teacher should see this film footage!
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