Imagine you can't read this...
Imagine the only way you can tell if a book is right side up is by its pictures...
Imagine believing it's all your fault and you're afraid to tell anyone...
You become a troublemaker. You are expelled not once, not twice, but three times from different schools.
Imagine you are unteachable.
Imagine a teacher who changes everything.
Young Daniel had bought into his status as "unteachable" by the time he walked into the fifth grade classroom of Mrs. Gott, a classroom located in buildings on an abandoned military base on Cape Cod.
Anthony Sherin's 12-minute short film Unteachable is, of course, about the fact that Daniel was and is very teachable, a promising young man who blossomed in the classroom of Mrs. Gott, a teacher without any advanced degrees but a passion for teaching reading and, perhaps just as importantly, an immense kindness and gentleness that gave Daniel the room he needed to tiptoe back toward education and to begin his far too long delayed journey toward actual learning.
Daniel could learn. In fact, once he started he never really stopped having graduated high school as class President, having obtained a master's degree in education from Harvard University, and finally earning his Ph.D. in education from UCLA before beginning what would become a 30+ year career as a distinguished educator and a man who remained so grateful for Mrs. Gott that he called her every year on her birthday until her death at 98-years-old.
Filmed utilizing 4k video, 8mm, and historical photographs, Unteachable is a familiar story brought beautifully to life with intelligence, sensitivity, and a matter-of-factness that serves the material well. While the film's narration occasionally runs a bit dry, the film's story makes up for it with a powerful testimony about not giving up even on those whom everyone else has called "unteachable."
Until this film, Daniel had never told anyone the severity of his dyslexia. Once you realize it, this powerful story will never leave your mind.
It's a story that resonated even for this film journalist, a guy who started out in a "special" school before being mainstreamed following IDEA. A C-student throughout much of my high school days, it wasn't until my third attempt at college under the leadership of Martin University founder Father Boniface Hardin that I experienced a setting where teachers truly figured out how to teach me.
Like Daniel, I blossomed and eventually graduated as valedictorian of my college class before continuing on to seminary.
Unteachable is an inspirational, informative film that will likely make you want to call up those teachers who truly made a difference in your own life and simply say "Thank you!"
For more information on Unteachable, visit the film's website linked to in the credits. The film is screening this week at the ReelAbilities Pittsburgh Film Festival. For more information on the festival, visit the official ReelAbilities Pittsburgh website.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic