About the Series
episode1: A Teacher Affects Eternity
episode2: Those Who Can... Teach
episode3: Educating to End Inequity
"Good teachers to me are like poets and saints." -- Spalding Gray
The documentary series "Only A Teacher" explores the diverse faces and many roles of the American teacher from the 1830s to the present. In three one-hour episodes, "Only A Teacher" presents historical background about the profession and how it developed, while giving voice to contemporary teachers and their concerns. The series plays out as a dialogue between past and present, as teachers from different eras describe their dreams and setbacks, challenges and achievements.
Today, teachers confront a range of challenges. But teachers have always faced confounding expectations and formidable obstacles to their work. They are public servants with personal missions, who know their work will always be influenced by forces beyond the classroom. "Only A Teacher" illustrates how the teaching profession has been influenced by those forces and shaped by a long line of remarkable teachers.
In-depth interviews with current teachers and eminent scholars form the foundation of the series. For the historical segments, diaries and letters reveal what teachers over the past 170 years have had to say about their work. To explore popular perceptions of teachers, the series glances at Hollywood movies and television comedies. Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams appear for a lighter look at teaching. Longtime teacher and author Frank McCourt gives moving and humorous testimony to teaching's power. Most importantly, throughout the series, we see the teachers themselves, often in their classrooms, working with their students.
America's attitude towards its teachers is frequently ambivalent. We admire them and at the same time lament that they don't do more. We limit their resources, and then ask them to do the most important job in the world. At its heart, "Only A Teacher" always pursues the crucial questions: what does it mean to be only a teacher, to do what only a teacher can do?
- Episode One, "A Teacher Affects Eternity," looks at teachers' immediate responsibilities with their students, highlighting their importance as mentors and role models.
- Episode Two, "Those Who Can...Teach," focuses on professional issues, such as training, pay, union membership, and working conditions.
- Episode Three, "Teaching to Change," addresses questions about teachers' roles in their larger communities, stressing their longstanding mandate to act as agents of democracy and social change.