The 2009 Peabody Awards Collection Black History Month screening series continues this Tuesday, February 10 with “The Education of Ms. Groves,” a Peabody-Award winning Dateline NBC report that chronicles the adventures of Teach for America volunteer Monica Groves in an Atlanta middle school.
The film will be shown at 7 p.m. in Room 348 of the Miller Learning Center. Free and open to the public. Monica Groves, the teacher profiled in the documentary, will be joining us for the screening and will lead a discussion and answer questions.
“Dateline NBC: The Education of Ms. Groves”
The Education of Ms. Groves’ is a vivid chronicle of one teacher’s struggle to change the lives of her students over the course of one year. It’s an emotional story of self-discovery, perseverance and courage.
Monica Groves is a first-year teacher at a tough urban middle school in Atlanta. Just 21-years old at the beginning of the semester, she is bright-eyed and full of optimism. ‘I haven’t met my students,’ she says, ‘but I already love them.’ Within weeks her optimism clashes with reality. Her students come from mostly low-income families, some are raised only by a single mom or grandparent, others are homeless or live in violence-ridden neighborhoods; these are children who lack even the most basic support systems. Predictably, Monica struggles to maintain control over her classroom. Her initial idealism gives way to a harsh realization that her inexperience is leading her students to a failure she never anticipated. Her frustration with her students’ lack of progress soon turns into outright anger, and her optimism into a severe crisis of self-confidence. Monica is slowly learning that in order to find her voice as a teacher, she must change as a person.
Monica’s struggle is echoed in the life of her students, and Dateline intimately profiles three of them in this hour. We follow Drew, one of Monica’s smartest students, in his attempt to make it into the school’s prestigious Gifted Program. One of the main reasons behind his eventual success: the forceful 83-year old grandmother who is raising him and his siblings. Another student, Stephen, is homeless, and we track him through his life with his family in a meager hotel room, the promise of a home that turns out to be uninhabitable, and finally the return to a house and room of his own. That Stephen manages to make the honor roll at the end of the year is an inspiration, and as we find out, it is largely due to the quiet influence of his teacher Ms. Groves. And we meet Mayah, a former honor student, who is failing Monica’s class. In scene after scene we unravel the reason behind Mayah’s failure: a father behind bars, a daughter without her best friend and role model.
In more than 90 days of shooting throughout the school year (and 200 hours of footage), producer/director Izhar Harpaz, correspondent Hoda Kotb and their team explore and expose the realities of life in a troubled American classroom. Granted extremely rare access by the school and Monica herself, and increasingly becoming invisible to the subjects they follow, their cameras capture classroom scenes we’ve all heard about but seldom seen: a teacher’s struggle to be respected, a class’ intransigence and lack of motivation, an all-out classroom fight. But we also witness scenes of hope, of individual success and perseverance, and scenes of a teacher’s undying passion, a teacher who ultimately manages to reach and inspire many of her students.
To encapsulate a turbulent school year into 38 minutes is impossible. But by simply telling the story, ‘The Education of Ms. Groves’ touches upon many of the problems at the forefront of American education today, in particular the education in low-income communities across the country. It is news magazine journalism at its best.