October 27th, 2009

Teachers: inspired, exhausted and poor

Last week, GOOD magazine published “The GOOD 100″ a sort of Martha Stewart ‘good things’ for the non-profit world. One of the list’s education-related highlights is the Teacher Salary Project. The project is a collaboration between Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari, co-founders of the national non-profit 826 (which provides tutoring and writing programs to youth) and filmmaker Vanessa Roth, whose documentary work has focused on foster care, gay rights, and other social issues. Eventually, the Project will include a feature-length documentary on the value of good teachers and their work.

The goal of the Teacher Salary Project is to generate energy and excitement around the idea that public school teachers should be paid much, much more. As one teacher convincingly puts it in the trailer:

I mean, if you were to say to me, if I were to make a lot more money, would I stay in teaching—if that’s all that would happen, I would probably say no. But I know that if the salary went up…things would follow in terms of the level of prestige and I bet the level of effectiveness and I bet the retention.

The project has amassed a good deal of video footage of teachers–some in a kind of video diary format, some of it simply observing their work in the classroom. The more personal clips tend to focus on long, exhausting days through which teachers cheerfully struggle; the classroom clips are there to celebrate the innovative work of good teachers (below, a Spanish teacher uses music and rhythm to teach vocabulary).

When we covered Teach for America teachers working in New Orleans during the 2008-2009 school year, we found that many of them were struggling, and that only a few of them planned on staying in the teaching force long-term. It’s refreshing to watch the teachers featured by the Teacher Salary Project, whose hard work is ongoing. Now it’s time to properly reward them.

The First Ever GOOD 100 [GOOD.is, 10/7/09]

The Teacher Salary Project

Paul Vallas in New Orleans, Episode 10: The TFA Effect [LMtv, 7/7/09]

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