The New Public, a film by Jyllian Gunther is the most recent addition to the Reel Education co-hort. The film follows an ambitious group of teachers who create Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM) a small, public high school in an under served neighborhood of Brooklyn. The film provides a close-up look at the struggles teachers face in and outside of school.
In North Carolina, a state where teacher pay is ranked at 46th in the nation and public funds are being diverted to private schools, Working Films connected The New Public to the Tarheel Alliance of Classroom Teachers (tACT). TACT is a new organization that works to unite public educators in North Carolina in order that they might assume a more active role and voice in the decisions made that impact public schools and the students enrolled in them. They seek to promote teacher respect, recognition, compensation as well as improvements in public education as a whole.
With support from Working Films tACT held screenings of The New Public in key cities across the state. In addition to promoting awareness of the struggles and triumphs in public education, the screening series raised tACT’s profile and helped grow its membership. Specifically the screenings resulted in Sixty new members joining this new and growing organization. TACT staff and board members said that putting the series together helped them to establish or strengthen existing alliances with prestigious, well established state and national organizations including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), UNC CH Education Law & Policy Society, Public Schools First of NC, Women AdvaNCe, NC Justice Center, and the NC Association of Educators. The screenings were also used to collect audience information on working conditions and challenges for North Carolina teachers to help inform tACT’s agenda for the school year.
Sandy Younce, a board member for tACT, said the discussions following each screening were overwhelmingly fruitful. Participants “agreed that a free public education for all children is basic to the maintenance of a free and democratic society.” Out of the many complex issues depicted in the film, one of the major takeaways is the incredible burden on public school teachers to be all things to all people. According to Younce, “Public educators are expected to do everything for their community. Teachers are expected to be mothers, fathers, moral guides, nursemaids, and administrators.” tACT is working hard to create recognition of the challenges educators in NC and across the country face and to assure that teachers are given credit for their commitment to their students, knowledge and professionalism. Working Films is proud to have been able to support them in using film to advance these goals.
Keep your eyes open for further collaboration with tACT on additional screenings of education films this spring!