Only a Teacher - classroom
Only A Teacher
Professional Development
Episode One
Episode Two
Episode Three

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 Three: Themes and Possible Discussion Points
  • Leveling the Educational Playing Field: Ensuring Equity
    (Fairness within schools and among schools, using schools to create a society of equals)
    These issues are laid out at the beginning of the show and continue to be explored throughout the program.

  • Native American Education: From Assimilation to Tribal Sovereignty
    (History, programs to erase Native American identity, using schools to promote Indian identity, community-based education)
    3:25. Visual cue: Title -- Educating to End Inequity

  • Social Change: Desegregating Schools
    (Schools as vehicles for social equalization, desegregation vs. integration, creating a unified but diverse school community, teachers' role in larger social movements)
    21:22. Narration cue: Choice and equity in schooling have eluded minority groups throughout history; Visual cue: Native American photos dissolve into African-American class

  • Second-Chance Schools: Educational Remedies
    (Reaching kids who have failed to thrive in school, dealing with students from impoverished or fractured communities)
    12:15. Santa Fe Indian School; 33:20. Urban Academy

  • New Models for Structuring Schools: Rethinking Teachers' Roles
    (Schools without administrators, schools as communities of teachers and students, schools that nourish teaching and learning, schools that promote mutli-faceted assessment)
    33:20. Urban Academy

    Working Together: Desegregating Schools
    Look at the section on Charlotte, North Carolina.

    This section explores one city's experience with desegregation in the 1970s. It looks at the history of desegregation and the obstacles to bringing students of all backgrounds together. It then traces the successful efforts of Charlotte's teachers and administrators to bring about positive change. Teachers, principals and parents look back on the desegregation movement and assess its success then and implications today. Discuss:
    1. 24:03. William McNair, Parent: "Was [desegregation] going to be the downfall of the public education system? Here we have people we know nothing about."

      How can schools incorporate change without alarming the public? How can schools, and teachers especially, ease bringing together "people we know nothing about?"

    2. 25:40. Visual cue: school buses. Betty Seizinger, Retired Teacher: "The most important thing is that it [desegration] was considered the right thing to do."

      31:04. End of segment. Glenda Gilmore, Historian: "There was no other remedy for 100 years of discrimination...and the schools were the place to start."

      Many teachers in Charlotte felt they were taking the moral high road. But the teachers were being asked to take on a difficult mission - one that much of society had shrunk from taking on -- in desegregation. Are schools the place to begin major social changes? In what ways might a sense of "doing what is right" sustain teachers? How can a teacher balance the need to teach his or her subject matter with the kind of extracurricular demands desegregation imposed?

    3. 26:03. Visual cue: Yearbook photos. Barbara Ledford, Retired Principal/Teacher: "Students need to see that leadership and excellence are found among all races and ethnic groups."

      In your own school, how do you ensure that such leadership and excellence are evident among all groups? In the classroom, how do you encourage all students to excel and demonstrate their leadership?

    4. 26:40. Ann Fox, Counselor/Teacher: "Attitudes came out sometimes in the classroom. Kids would say things like, 'Don't touch me.'"

      27:05. L'Tanya Earle, Student: "The story sticks with me 25 years later, so that lets you know the impact this health teacher in junior high had on me."

      How can a teacher be sure he or she isn't offending the sensibilities of a student? How should a teacher respond when a student makes a slighting remark to him or her? How can a teacher best manage an instance of ethnic or social hostility in a classroom discussion among students? What do you do in your own classroom to foster harmony and productive interaction among diverse students?

    5. 31:39. End of segment. Kat Crosby: "I'm not sure that integration was as successful as desegregation."

      What are the differences between desegregation and integration? As teachers, how do you encourage students to be proud of their backgrounds, while discouraging cliques or ethnic/racial/social divisions? How do you create a group identity (as a class, as a school) that still respects students' individual identities?

    6. Think about an opportunity you've had to talk about -- and act on -- student diversity. What were the issues you were dealing with? Who defined the issues - you or the students? How did you capitalize on the curriculum or the students' concerns that prompted the discussion about diversity? Based on that experience, create a lesson plan or discussion session that takes the issue of diversity in the directions you feel will be most positive.
    New Models for Structuring Schools: Rethinking Teachers' Roles
    Look at the concluding section on Urban Academy in New York City.
    1. 40:27. Avram Barlowe: "A lot of people feel a lot more comfortable if they can completely control the agenda."

      In your classroom, do you control the agenda? Are you comfortable giving the students some leeway in charting the course of the curriculum or the discussion? How do you prefer to balance following a strict lesson plan and letting the students' input affect content or pacing?

    2. 43:05. Visual cue: kids sitting on couches, throwing a hat. Terri Grasso: "It takes students a while to get out of the 'us and them' mentality."

      Does an "us and them" mentality manifest itself in your school or in your classroom? Are those barriers a problem? If so, what would help break down the barriers? Are there dangers in breaking down the barriers too much? How would you best like to relate to your students?

    3. 46:00. Visual cue: Teachers' meeting around large table. Phyllis Tashlik: Among the faculty, "we discuss and discuss and discuss. We're constantly reflecting on what we've done."

      What opportunities do you have to meet with your colleagues? How can those meetings be structured to allow the most productive discussions about what you do? What kind of reflection would be most beneficial?

    4. Urban Academy has what it calls "undifferentiated staffing." There are no pure administrators; teachers do all the administrative tasks. What would be the advantages of a system like this? What would be the disadvantages? Are there ways your school could blur the distinction between administrators and teachers?

    5. 48:08. Visual cue: girl walking down hall with sandwich board sign. Diane Ravitch: "Portfolio assessment is good, but I don't think it's the whole answer."

      What are the advantages of performance-based assessment? What are its limitations? How do you assess your students' performance? How would you prefer to assess their work?

    6. Devise an assessment system that really works for both students and teachers. A single letter grade frustrates students; a lengthy comment frustrates time-starved teachers. Using a portfolio model, what kind of multi-faceted assignments would serve your subject best? Define the kinds of student work you would include: objective tests, student writing, art work, independent projects, peer or group work, community service, outside evaluations. How could you realistically implement elements of performance-based assessment in your own classes or your own school?

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