Blog: Daniel Moulthrop

Daniel Moulthrop is the co-author of the book "Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers" and is Curator of Conversation at The Civic Commons (The Civic Commons). Dan is also a veteran teacher and the former host of the award-winning Cleveland public affairs program "The Sound of Ideas" (90.3 WCPN ideastream). Dan is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Cleveland with his wife and three children. Dan will be attending tonight's screening of "American Teacher" and answering questions after the film. The film is at 7pm and you can purchase tickets at the Michigan Theater Box Office.
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Want to fix education? Start with teaching.

Let's start out with a few basic truths about education: 1. The single most important in-school factor that affects how much students are learning is the quality of the teacher leading the class. 2. There are a lot of great teachers. 3. There are not enough great teachers. There's not a whole lot to disagree with in those three statements. The first is a fact made famous by Bill Gates. We've all had at least one great teacher that we remember fondly, someone without whom we never would have become who we've become. And even the greatest most high performing schools could use more great teachers. But here's another fact it would be hard to disagree with: the conversations about how to improve public education mostly ignore these facts.

Sure, a lot of state governments talk about teacher accountability and implementing measures that would force teachers to get better at teaching their students how to take certain tests and then firing teachers who "under perform." That approach supposes that there's a huge line of highly qualified, well trained expert teachers just waiting in the wings to take those jobs for $35,000 a year. What if instead of talking about statewide tests or laws that reduce funding from schools that are already strapped, we began to talk about what doing the job really well actually looks like, what that work is worth and how we could encourage more talented people to choose that profession.

That's the goal of American Teacher, which screens at 7 tonight (Wednesday) at the Michigan Theater. The documentary--produced by Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari--tells the stories of four talented teachers struggling to figure out how they can continue to work at the best job in the world given the intense demands of the job itself and a compensation system that often feels as though if it were designed to encourage talented people to seek other professions.

The movie is based on Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers (a book I co-wrote with Eggers and Ninive). When we wrote it, we wanted to help people outside of education understand just what teachers' lives are actually like. And we wanted to give people the opportunity to have an honest conversation about how the teaching profession might be re-invented. Ninive always used to lay out a vision like this--Imagine a world where the smartest, most talented college graduates lay awake at night not worrying about what med school they'll go to, which hospital they'll match at, or which MBA program or law school will accept them; imagine all of them unable to sleep because they're so desperate to get into a teacher training program or get their first teaching job at an inner city public school.

If you're not sure that's possible, think again. And come see American Teacher to see how.


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