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Guest Name
Laurie Gabriel
Laurie Gabriel
Guest Occupation
Teacher, Musician, Musician Contractor, Public Speaker, Documentarian, Conductor, Music Instructor, Voiceover Artist, Documentary Film Director at 'Heal Our Schools' Documentary
Guest Biography

Join us Sunday, June 14 for 'A Conversation with Teacher and Film Director Laurie Gabriel' -  Laurie is the Writer/Director/Filmmaker of 'HEAL OUR SCHOOLS; HEAR OUR TEACHERS' a documentary film about the real issues hurting our public schools and what real teachers have to offer as real answers and solutions. Laurie will talk about her new teacher-produced documentary and how to put control back into the hands of the people who know the students - the teachers who are the experts.

'Heal Our Schools; Hear Our Teachers' was produced with the mission of uncovering and solving the real problems of public education in America. This venture is different from other education documentaries in that it fully explores the experience and expertise of our most overlooked resource: teachers. Through this platform, educators from all over the country can share their compelling (and strikingly similar) stories and solutions. 'Heal Our Schools; Hear Our Teachers' is an enlightening look into what's really going on behind school doors, as well as a collection of virtually cost-free answers to the education crisis--answers that are based on teachers' caring compassion for the children they serve.

Recent reforms, penned by politicians and policymakers who often have little-to-no classroom experience, have been addressing the same surface issues (testing, teacher evaluation, vouchers, etc.) instead of the real problems: herding of children by subject and by age; daunting bureaucratic paperwork; our society's lack of adult role models who exemplify compassion, honesty, patience, and commitment; parents who do not support the schools; and the reduction of meaningful teacher/student relationships to overcrowded buildings and faceless statistics. Until these truths are acknowledged and addressed, no other reform plan will work.

The teaching profession is currently being maligned by a number of politicians and other persons in the media spotlight, leading to a dangerous plan to replace teachers without finding out what's really keeping them from effectively helping their students. Instead of seeing a turnaround in student achievement, we'll only see a repeat of the same setbacks with the next batch of teachers (if we're able to attract new teachers at all). It's time to set the record straight.

A review of the film:

Documentary aims to 'bring back trust of teachers'

By DEBBIE KELLEY, The Gazette - May 30, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Teaching a herd of sheep to move in one direction at the same time works. Similarly, teaching a herd of children to read a book, solve math problems and other lessons doesn't.

That's one of the messages conveyed in a new documentary a former Colorado Springs public school teacher created, directed and produced.

"Heal Our Schools" "illuminates the problems federal and corporate takeover have created in our schools and provides teacher-generated solutions." It will debut with screenings in Colorado Springs this weekend and June 13.

Laurie Gabriel, who taught music, drama, choir and orchestra for 27 years in public schools in Colorado, most recently in Colorado Springs School District 11, spent four years and a chunk of money creating the film.

She traveled the country talking to teachers, education policy analysts, authors and other education experts.

"It's getting more and more important that the general public understands what's going on in education, that kids and teachers are being left out, as profit-driven corporations have taken over testing," she said.

Her goal: "To bring back trust of teachers. We've been painted sometimes as not knowing what's best for the kids. We do, and we can work together with parents for the benefit of the kids."

Teachers, Gabriel said, are being left out of the decision-making processes in education to the point that "the silence of the teachers is deafening."

Teachers are being blamed for students not performing well on standardized tests, she said, and in many cases are being threatened with losing their jobs for speaking out against the system.

"I watched the profession deteriorate bit by bit, and it seemed like we teachers were helpless to do anything," Gabriel said. "I heard the same stories in the teachers' lounge and on Facebook and instead of swallowing it, I decided to tell the story."

Along with teachers and students talking about today's classroom environment and impediments to learning, the film includes commentary by high-profile personalities. Those include former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch; Jonathan Kozol, an award-winning author on public education; and author and co-founder of an institute to minimize school violence Nancy Carlsson-Paige. She's the mother of actor Matt Damon, who puts in an appearance in the documentary.

Merril Boruchin Spielman, a reading specialist who lives in Manitou Springs, is one of the film's featured teachers. She volunteers to teach students in Southeast Asia and is a substitute teacher in Colorado Springs School District 11.

"I am afraid for our public school system and the dangers that are happening," Boruchin Spielman said. "Ask the teachers what isn't working and how to improve that.

"Whenever there's a problem, we blame and judge rather than look at the solution," she said.

Gabriel said the main problem with today's public education system is that teachers no longer have control of how and what to teach. She advocates localizing and individualizing education. Smaller class sizes, curriculum that includes the arts and humanities, less emphasis on high-stakes testing and more emphasis on promoting individual students' gifts are some of the ideas she puts forth in her documentary.

Boruchin Spielman said the herd mentality of teaching has resulted in classrooms having mixed levels of proficiency, with kids entering kindergarten having anywhere from fourth-grade reading levels to no reading skills.

"What do we do when we have a kindergartner who has to learn how to sit in a chair first before they learn alphabetizing, and we have to treat them all the same," she said. "We're seeing the stress this is putting on teachers and the students, and we're losing our passion."

The film highlights two teacher-led schools, one in Boulder and one in St. Paul, Minn., where students are grouped by academic abilities rather than age and teachers tailor learning to nurture each child's talents and interests.

"It was a heart-breaking decision for me to leave public school teaching," Gabriel said. "If teachers stood together it would be a lot easier for us to stand up for our kids. We need a unified voice saying the way it is isn't right for our kids."

Information from: The Gazette,