Monday, January 30, 2012

Reflecting on MITCHELL20

This weekend the Alabama NBCT Network had their annual conference. A perk to the conference was that MITCHELL20 was screened. If you are not familiar with this film here is the trailer:

The Mitchell 20 Trailer from Mitchell 20 on Vimeo.

When I first saw the trailer at the National Boards Conference last summer, it really struck a chord with me. Although I am in a different geographic location in the country, I felt like I could identify with many of the challenges that they were facing. (I've heard that from many other educators who have seen the trailer and the film.) As Kathy Wiebke, executive producer for MITCHELL20 and one of our keynote speakers said, this is a true story, not the story they set out to make, but one that needed to be told. If you go into it thinking this is another movie like Mr. Holland's Opus, you will be disappointed... because after all, for those of us in the classroom today, many days are a struggle to do what we feel is best for our students.

When the film ended I had no words, but so many emotions. I think one reason it is so emotional is because to some degree, we can identify with their challenges. We've been there. We've felt their tears and their frustrations. Now I'm going to attempt to put some of these thoughts into words.

One of the major things that I took away from the film is the impact that one teacher can make. One teacher led the charge to make a difference in her school. She started encouraging fellow teachers to change the quality of their teaching. Twenty teachers agreed and they began their two year journey that was documented in the film. These teachers met together to discuss the changes they had made in their instruction and the impact it was having on their students, and ultimately on their community.  Several times throughout the film the different teachers talked about how it changed their relationships with one another. Before they were colleagues who only knew one another by speaking in between their teaching; now they had become a family as they all worked towards the same goal.

I've heard several times that teaching is a solitary profession. To an outsider, that may seem strange as we are in a school filled with people. I know at times we feel like we are alone in the fight to not only improve our teaching practice, but also continue to provide the best quality teaching for our students.Like the teachers at the Mitchell School, we may struggle against policy and practice mandated by those outside the classroom, but it's a struggle we are all facing. By banding together, we can work together to find solutions. When you see the results that the students reaped from their journey (one many of us have seen in our teaching as well) you know that all of the hard work was worth it.

Their journey wasn't an easy one. Once they started speaking out and not accepting the status quo, things became even more difficult for them. What was different? They had one another. We know that when you start speaking out, sometimes there is push back. Truth is it isn't fair. Who ultimately suffers? Our students. It is our responsibility to speak up for them to give them the best opportunities that we can. One quote from the movie that stuck with me was that "We need to let our students know they can be anything that they want to be. Nothing can stop them if they have that conviction." And what better way can we teach them that than through our example? We can speak up; we can make their world a better place through our teaching; we can be the change that our students need.

To read more about MITCHELL20, here is a blog post written by Kathy Wiebke on Talk Priority Schools. To schedule a screening see will be released on DVD in March. I highly recommend you schedule a viewing for the teachers and  educational leaders in your area .  


  1. Well said. And another point is that the support of your leadership is soooo important. You've got to help your leaders understand the importance of what you are doing.

  2. I got chills when I saw the trailer! It's so encouraging to know there are people who (like you) care so passionately about our children.