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For Students Who Want to Be Teachers, New Documentary Explores Obstacles

Guest post by Jacob Bell

Though many students have an interest in becoming educators, they may also have apprehension about joining a profession that can sometimes sound less than desirable. A new documentary follows a trio of students deciding whether to pursue such a career.

"The Road to TEACH" follows the cross-country road trip of three 20-somethings who are considering careers in education despite discouragement from parents and peers.

Throughout the trip, the trio interviews education leaders about current triumphs in the system and the challenges—budget cuts, decline in the number of young people becoming teachersit continues to face.

"We have so many teachers retiring in the next ten years, and we need to think of new waysout-of-the-box waysto inspire the next generation to teach," Lisa Zimble, director of the TEACH campaign for Participant Media, a collaborator for the documentary's production, said. (Participant Media also produced the films "TEACH" and "Waiting for 'Superman.'")

These ways, Zimble added, include improving teacher preparation and retention, giving mentors to new teachers in their first years, and inspiring students to become teachers so they "can experience the joy of teaching" earlier in their schooling.

Roughly half of all teachers in the U.S. are Baby Boomers, according to a 2009 report from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future. Because of this, U.S. public education could lose more than 1.72 million teachers to retirement in the next few years. And problems with teacher attrition are well known, with somewhere north of 30 percent of teachers leaving within the first five years of their careers.

The documentary prompts deep thinking about what it means to successfully recruit next generation teachers, Zimble said.

"The Road to TEACH" was shot between August and September of 2014, culminating in a forum discussion in Washington. The show formally debuted at the SXSWedu education conference on March 11 and premiered on Pivot, a Participant Media television channel, on March 18.

The Newseum, in Washington, also hosted a screening on March 12. Around 100 people attended the latter screening, which was followed by a brainstorming session where representatives from teacher recruitment organizations and the U.S. Department of Education talked about the issues raised in the film.

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