Good Work with a Loudspeaker

The Harlem and Williamsburg (Brooklyn) film festivals featured a trio of TEACHED shorts from Loudspeaker Films:

The Path to Prison: provides a candid look at this massive but preventable crisis. Featuring a young man from South Central, Los Angeles sharing his personal story from student to prisoner, “The Path to Prison” begins to explain how a perfectly intelligent and capable boy ends up on this tragic, but sadly commonplace trajectory to criminal behavior and incarceration.
The Blame Game: Teachers Speak Out: Everyone loves and appreciates the value of great teachers, and no one wants ineffective teachers in the classroom. But what happens when ineffective teachers can’t be fired? In “The Blame Game,” teachers themselves talk about the profession and the consequences of rules that treat all teachers as if they’re interchangeable.
Uncharted Territory: An introduction to charter schools, what they are and why some are so great and some not.  Interviewing some of the most successful ‘pioneers’ of this still-developing frontier, we learn first-hand about both the opportunities and obstacles presented by charter school reform.

Producer Kelly Amis grew up in Nebraska and went to college at Georgetown. “As a senior, I knew I wanted to ‘give back’ for the great fortune I’d had educationally before going on (or so I thought) to journalism school,” said Amis. “I was looking into the Peace Corps and other programs abroad, but then saw a flier for Teach For America. I was already volunteering with kids in DC then, so it seemed like the perfect fit—and it was.”
Teaching in South Central Los Angeles ignited her passion for education reform. She said, “What I saw there opened my eyes to the fact that certain populations of students are treated very differently by our education system, and that some of them—African-American boys in particular—are virtually set on a trajectory to gang-life and incarceration.”
A master’s from Stanford, a Fulbright scholarship, and work for a US Representative, think tank, an advocacy group and foundation prepared Kelly as an edreformer. Amis found filmmaking and immediately recognized it as the missing link to build support for transforming the education system: “Film can transcend politics– it can even transcend literacy levels–reaching people in a way that is much more personal.”
Amis’ films aren’t preachy; they lay out the facts and let real people tell their story. She said, “I hope that audiences will see that these short films are made with passion and love, even while they tackle some very difficult, often polarizing issues around education reform.”
When Amis talks about her films, her real aim emerges, “more joy-filled places of learning for students and teachers.”
Twenty years ago a teacher that wanted to make a bigger impact became a principal.  Today teachers (and impact-seeking mid-career professionals) can make a contribution as a content creator, software developer, advocate, or—like Kelly—a filmmaker.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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