The documentary "The First Year" follows five first year teachers into five schools in the Los Angeles area during the 1999-2000 school year. The teachers are passionate, driven, and full of the idealism of an unjaded educator. These are clearly strong, loving individuals who want to make a difference. Watching what lengths they will go to for the benefit of the students is admirable.
The film's overall presentation of them is less so. Clearly a full school year's worth of footage was shot for each of the five individuals and their classrooms. Documentarian Davis Guggenheim directed "The First Year" several years prior to his work on the academy award winning "The Inconvenient Truth". Unfortunately this earlier work does not benefit from the same clear, unmuddled, realistic perspective of that later work.
Clearly the film uses these five individuals to recruit new teachers. With that overarching intention, it makes the picture of modern education that much more sanitized as the film quickly paints over noticeable administrative issues or the needs to form a better link between parents and teachers. Using first year teachers as a statement of "it's not so bad, you should do it too" is imbalanced at best.
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