Friday, September 28, 2012

Movie Review: Won't Back Down

As a teacher, I have a rare opportunity to comment on a film that attempts to portray the way school life really is. I think they sugar coated it, but that's probably for the PG rating.

The issues are genuine, and I will say the dedication of teachers cannot be overestimated. Parents, either.But there are genuine problems in the district system, and the 'tip of the iceburg' was well portrayed in this film.

Maggie Gillenhaal as Jamie
Maggie Gyllenhaal is a young mom with a daughter who has a reading disability. She continues to be upbeat and determined to help her daughter through helping the school, despite hostility and overwhelming odds. Maggie did a very good job, although I have never met a parent like this.

Viola Davis as Nona
Her teacher counterpart, Nona, is played by Viola Davis. In my opinion, she is a very convincing teacher: thoughtful, both idealistic and realistic. Her mother's inspiration lives in her heart so she can persist despite personal crisis and attacks. She portrayed the torture a teacher would feel in a circumstance like this.

 In my opinion, unions do help teachers do their work and help the kids; although, as a Special Education teacher I found this less so. This 'Trigger School' idea is such a threat to the establishment, it will take very unusual folks to get it to work. Until NCLB, Special Education students were not truly guaranteed qualified staff. No students were. And remember that teaching circumstances widely differ by individual school sites and staffs. Attitudes of teachers are so individual, no one should ever say 'All teachers are only interested in a paycheck' or 'All teachers are saints.'
The real 'Trigger School' Locke High, Watts

The universal truth here is: The kids need our support.

I believe a more documentary style movie about the actual "Trigger" high school in Watts would have been more compelling. Maybe that's up next. I hope so.

The 'Trigger School' question in real life is actually even more dramatic than this film. Currently a school here in California, Desert Trails in Adelanto, is struggling in an even more difficult fight. I am personally familiar with some of the administrators  on both sides. Its kind of a mess, for the adults; but since the kids at Desert Trails are now involved with  'Success for All" (and excellent all-school intervention) the young ones should do alright for now. I'll let you know how that turns out.

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