Catch a Movie with TNTP

Spoiler Alert: This blog post includes an invitation to a free movie—in the comfort of your own home—by an Academy Award-winning director. From now through May 4th, TNTP Teaching Fellows will host a screening of TEACH, a documentary by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman). After watching the film online, you’re invited to join a post-screening discussion with the “stars” of the film. 

But before we get to all that, a short story: 

Once upon a time, I used to be a gun-for-hire documentary film producer. Now, at TNTP, my work revolves around recruiting new teachers—recent college graduates and career changers—to step into the classroom, in some of the most challenging schools in the country. Every year, my colleagues and I wrestle with how to counter and revise negative perceptions of teaching in high poverty areas, and bring the focus back to bridging the achievement gap and the promise of a fantastic, meaningful career. 

One way to do that, we think, is through stories. Because moving people to act isn’t always about showing them the hard data. It’s also about tugging at their heartstrings. By showing our applicants what teaching looks and feels like, with all of its highs and lows, we allow them to picture themselves in the classroom. 

There’s actually some science to this. When we share a statistic or a piece of data, the parts of our brain dedicated to language processing and decoding are activated. But when we share a great story, with emotions and sensory details, more of the brain gets involved, searching its memory banks for shared feelings and experiences, to make the story relatable and memorable. A good story about teaching allows listeners to put themselves in the classroom and imagine the possibilities for themselves.  

As we move toward next year’s recruitment cycle, we’ll be thinking about how to identify, cultivate and share the stories of real teachers in real classrooms, with the goal of catalyzing other talented people to join them. That’s why we’re delighted to kick off our partnership with Participant Media’s TEACH campaign with this week’s screening—and I'm excited to bring my past and present work together. Films, after all, are potent weapons when hard facts can feel remote and immovable. 

TEACH follows four dynamic, career teachers: Lindsay (6th grade algebra), Shelby (7th grade math), Matt (4th grade) and Joel (AP History). It’s an entertaining film with nail-biting storylines and beautiful production values. But its biggest selling point is that chance to see these great teachers in action. The central theme is announced by narrator Queen Latifah in the first few minutes: What is a teacher? And what do they do? And what makes them succeed or fail?

Over the course of the film, each teacher tries and fails and tries again, unleashing new strategies to help their students succeed. Lindsay papers the walls of her classroom in whiteboard for 360 degree math lessons while Joel, frustrated with his students’ failing test scores, seeks out his mentor to observe his class and give feedback. TEACH is about teaching in all its messy glory, and it’s awesome. 

So, join us. Watch the film and then jump into the discussion. Lindsay, Matt, Joel and Shelby will be there waiting for your questions and comments. Let’s make it a party. 


Monday, April 28- Sunday, May 4

Watch and discuss TEACH here.

Participant Media wants to understand how to bring more men and women to the profession of teaching. You can help by taking the pre-screening survey here, and the post-screening survey here

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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