Why Teachers Need to See Waiting for Superman

I finally got a chance to see Waiting for Superman; it lived up to its hype.

There’s not much to add about the film’s emotional punch. The portraits of the individual children and their parents are heart-rending. And the consequences of failure at a national level are laid out with frightening clarity. It will resonate.

What struck me while watching is that the very people who I keep reading feel attacked by the filmóteachersóare exactly the people who, in fact, the film celebrates as its heroes. The director, Davis Guggenheim, couldn’t be clearerógood schools are the result of great teachers. And led, by the way, by great leaders. Perhaps Waiting for Superman could do for teaching what Tiger Woods (pre-meltdown) did for golf ñexpand dramatically those who are interested in teaching and want to make it their profession.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t take to task teachers unions, dysfunctional school boards and bureaucraciesóit does and it should.

Waiting for Superman has been dubbed the Inconvenient Truth for education reform, in part because Guggenheim directed both films. But unlike “Inconvenient,” there are no easy ways for moviegoers to make themselves feel better, like buying a lightbulb or a hybrid car. This film will require sustained emotional and political buy-in for lasting change to occur. Getting those working on the front lines of this work to believe that they’re part of the solution would be a significant step that ed reformers must take.