These suggestions for how teachers and community groups might use "Only A Teacher" contain thumbnail descriptions of each episode, five major themes that appear in each episode and two sample programs of discussion and questions for each episode. Some are more hands-on and practical, some are more philosophical.
To find sections on the film, cue up to the funder credits at the beginning of the show, and reset the counter to 00:00:00.
Episode Two: Themes and Possible Discussion Points
Teacher Training and Development: The Cincinnati Initiative for Teacher Education (CITE Program)
(History, induction into the profession, mentoring, the evolution of a good teacher, sustaining teachers; what works, what's missing)
2:08. After Our Miss Brooks clip; 18:40 -- Title: Cincinnati Mid-Year; 48:10 -- Title: Last Day of School)
Respect for Teachers: The Genesis of America's Attitudes Towards Teachers
(Perceptions of teachers and their work, teachers as community role models, stereotypes, effects of feminization from the 19th century on, generating respect, building on what's positive)
5:35. Visual cue: Title -- Those Who Can...Teach); 23:42 (Visual cue: Title -- The Teacher's Calling)
The Roots of Standards and Standardization -- Implications for the Profession Today
(From Normal Schools to the late 19th-century "factoryization" of schools to state-mandated tests today)
15:20. Narration cue: Teachers needed more systematic training; Visual cue: wide shot of many teachers in a class
The Roots of Unionism and Unions Today: Trade Organization or Professional Society?
(Professionalism, perception of unions, role of unions then and now)
28:27. Visual cue: Title - The Fight for Teachers' Rights
Creating the Best Working Conditions for Teachers and the Best Learning Conditions for Students
(Expectations, work loads, salaries, mentoring, combating teacher isolation, avoiding burn-out, sustaining good teaching)
These issues are touched on throughout the show with a summary of them at the end at 45:15. Visual cue: Title -- Try Teaching 5 Classes a Day, 5 Days a Week)
Standards and Standardization
Look at the section on the "factoryization" of teaching and the contemporary responses to the standards movement.
This section describes the reasons -- political corruption, poor administrators, weak curriculum, favoritism -- that school systems around 1900 turned to standardized procedures and why teachers were grateful for the changes. It also notes the problems that accompanied standardization. Two scholars then talk about standardization today. Discuss:
- 32:13. Kate Rousmaniere, Historian of Education: "In many ways the standardization of schooling is good for teachers and students."
What are the benefits of standardization today? How does this play out in your own classroom?
- 32:52. Visual cue: 1920s auto factory. Ted Sizer, Chair, Coalition of Essential Schools: "Standardization is what Henry Ford needed."
What are the problems with standardization today? How can you combat them in your own classroom?
- 33:39. Lorraine Monroe, Director, School Leadership Academy: "This is a dilemma that's pervasive across the country, the dilemma of how do we address standards and still make children love a subject?"
What are some creative ways you've addressed this question in your own classroom?
- 34:10. Joel Spring, Professor of Education: "...For those who believe in freedom of thought...and the freedom of action for the teacher in the classroom, [standards and standardized teaching are] destroying the whole idea of intellectual freedom in the classroom for teacher and student."
How can teachers maintain their intellectual freedom in the era of standards and standardization?
- What is the difference between standards and standardization? How have you used state standards (which imply standardization) to improve what you do in the classroom? What kinds of standards of your own do you hope to meet in your curriculum and student achievement?
Think about what standards you are expected to meet in the classroom. (Standardized tests, standard curriculum, standards within the school, your own standards.) Devise an assignment in your subject (plan a unit, suggest a field trip, define community resources for kids) that would meet the state standards, but in a way that would also engender a kid's real love for the subject. Brainstorm standards of your own you'd like to implement.
The Roots of Unionism and Unions Today
Beginning at 36:00, look at the section on the origins of unions at the turn of the 20th century and on unions today. Visual cue: Woman climbing ladder.
This section describes the historic causes for the rise of unions around 1900. It describes conditions -- both within the school and in the larger society -- that colored teachers' decisions to found and join unions. It then brings us into the present-day discussion of unionism, weighing the idea of a trade organization against that of a professional society. Discuss:
- 36:16. Visual cue: row of girls in physical education class. Kathleen Weiler, Historian of Education: "Experts talk about...the school as factory, the children as product, the teacher as worker, the principal as boss...If teachers are workers, what do workers do? They organize."
Is this a model that still holds? What are more imaginative definitions of school structure?
- 38:55. Visual cue: black and white metal factory footage. Kate Rousmaniere, Historian of Education: When teachers joined unions at the turn of the century, people saw them linking arms with, "blue-collar, all-male, factory and industrial workers."
Most teachers see themselves as white collar and professional. How does this contradiction play out today? How can teachers counteract the perception of unions as unprofessional? How can teachers use union solidarity to help them achieve their goals?
- The narration points out that many Americans have held the belief that civil servants shouldn't have the right to strike." Should your obligation to children override your obligation to fight for better working conditions?
- 44:41. Julia Luna, Chicano Studies teacher: "I'm in a union but not by choice..unions end up just keeping bad teachers here..."
Is this true? How could unions actually help poor teachers improve?
- 42:47. Visual cue: children on playground. Jeanette DiLorenzo, UFT, Retired Teachers' Association: "The teachers unions are the best lobbyists for children."
Is this true? How can the union help children?
- Talk with your colleagues about how your union promotes or diminishes your sense of professionalism. What mechanisms would increase your sense of professionalism? How can your union promote a professional attitude among teachers and the perception among the public that teachers are professionals?