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The Learning

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Ramona S. Diaz
Directed Ramona S. Diaz
DVD, color, 90 min.
College - General Adult
Education, Immigration, International Studies, Phillipines, Teacher Training

Reviewed by Hong Cheng, Instruction/Reference Librarian, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 6/4/2012

They are not Filipina Ron Clarks, instead, they come with a simple dream: sending money back for their families. They were hired by Baltimore public schools to ease the shortage of teachers, but they also faced a series of challenges, including culture shock, classroom management and the possibility of alienated family relationships.

The Learning documents four female Filipina teachers’ lives right before leaving their homeland as well as the first year in a completely new land. They started with grand expectations, but all found out there is indeed no free lunch. Dorotea, a respected middle-aged science teacher waving goodbye to her husband and two young sons with a big smile, later experienced on-going challenges from her troubled students. Grace, leaving her infant baby in tears, found out with disappointment that her son wasn’t as close to her anymore after one year. A young teacher, Angel, kept sending money to support her family every month, realizing her family heavily relied on her as the breadwinner and even bragged about having her earning US dollars; Rhea, a special education teacher who tried hard to get involved in the American community, was shocked and frustrated to hear her husband was sentenced to prison for drug dealing.

More than showing how hard-working overseas Filipinas are, the Filipino-American director Diaz selects a unique angle for the audience to think about the current urban education system and how international migrant teachers contribute to it. It is not an uplifting film as it is full of conflicts and pain. However, these teachers did open up a whole new world for their students. Students learned to say “hello” in a new language and even performed Filipino dances. Visiting their homeland during the summer vacation, these determined women shared with their loved ones not only American products and experiences, but also a steadfast attitude that they will make their American dreams come true.

According to Importing Educators: Causes and Consequences of International Teacher Recruitment, international teachers face many possible problems that can be hard to predict: high recruiting fees, unequal benefits, visas, culture shock, communication barriers and so on. This film hopefully will raise the awareness of top decision makers and encourage discussion among concerned people.

The film comes with English subtitles and is highly recommended to people who are interested in knowing about the lives of internationally hired teachers.