It’s back to school time, and two documentaries this week explore the world of learning.
PBS’ Is School Enough?, airing Sept. 3 (check local listings), delves into the question of whether what’s being taught in the classroom has value outside of the classroom. How do you make the curriculum relevant to real life? How do you really inspire students? The documentary looks at efforts to get kids learning out in the real world, in order to inspire and prompt curiosity through interest-driven learning. Filmmaker Stephen Brown uses educators, researchers and kids to show that students able to explore their interests and solve real problems perform best.
At Edutopia, you can find a companion Web series to the documentary. A series of short videos highlight young people who are pursing their passions, including Rhys, 10, from Texas, who loves video game design; Noah, 16, who works at a non-profit organization; and Kathryn, 14, who hated math until she began using it to build cars. It’s all a good reminder that we need to encourage children to embrace life beyond the books and to become bigger thinkers.
The second special worth checking out this week is Teach, from Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim, who was behind The First Year, Waiting for Superman, and An Inconvenient Truth. It airs Friday, Sept. 6 on CBS from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Queen Latifah, daughter of a New Jersey public school teacher, is the host and narrator of the two-hour show that highlights four public school teachers, giving a look at America’s education system through their eyes. The moving documentary talks to the teachers, kids and parents. Success is the goal, but how can it be achieved for each and every kid?
The teachers share their concerns about responsibilities and challenges. How far should they go? How far do they have to go to reach each child? The kids talk about learning and the future. But the best part is just watching the interaction between teacher and child. Guggenheim makes it compelling and poignant. The show is a reminder of how hard teachers work and of how important and wonderful a dedicated, caring, good teacher can be.
What is a teacher, the narrator asks one student? Her response: “Someone who inspires you to do something better with your life.” Well said! You’ll be ready to hug the next teacher you see when it’s over. Oh, and have your tissues ready at the end. It’s never easy saying goodbye to your favorite teacher.