Unteachable - Re-posted from The Mighty

In April 2019, filmmaker Anthony Sherin’s short documentary, Unteachable, screened at the ReelAbilities Film Festival in New York City.

The following blog-post by Anthony Sherin, re-posted from The Mighty, is an introduction to the origins, experiences, and themes of Unteachable.

Four years ago I set out to document the critical role that teachers play in the social, emotional, and academic development of children. The resulting film, Unteachable, features Daniel Franklin, PhD, reflecting on his struggles with dyslexia, and his teacher, Mrs. Gott, whose patience and kindness recast how Daniel viewed himself as a student and learner. Among the main ideas I explore in Unteachable extend from Daniel’s studies in the growing field of interpersonal neurobiology.

I recently chatted with Daniel. Below are Daniel’s additional thoughts on trauma, interpersonal neurobiology, the role that teachers play in supporting struggling students, and Unteachable:

Students with long histories of academic struggles are frequently turned off to learning, or have lost belief in themselves as learners. As a result of school failure, these students can also experience high levels of trauma and shame, which are well-known to diminish school performance, impact social functioning, and can result in depression or other psychological challenges. Through a careful examination of struggling students’ circumstances and by prioritizing the interpersonal relationship between educator and student, a skilled teacher is uniquely suited to play an essential role in championing positive change in the social, emotional, and learning development of students. What Mrs. Gott understood intuitively, was that by prioritizing the social and emotional development of her students through positive, secure attachment relationships, she was ultimately able to foster student growth and promote learning outcomes.

It is the efficacy of the prioritization of secure attachment relationships that speaks to the rapidly growing research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, which views the human brain as a social organ, and critical areas of learning and development as a function of interpersonal dynamics. Among the leaders of this new and important field are individuals such as Robert Brooks, Louis Cozolino, Diana Fosha, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Joseph Palumbo, Daniel Siegel, and Marion Solomon. By leveraging an understanding of interpersonal neurobiology educators can create and utilize opportunities to promote neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is fundamental to promoting learning and improving mindset for oneself and his or her role in the learning process. Mrs. Gott did not hold advanced degrees, and only received training to be a reading teacher much later in life, but she had a gift for teaching students like me. Quite simply, she was kind. I have been working in education for over 30-years, and it is because of Mrs. Gott’s exemplary kindness, that I approach my work with the foundational belief that all children can learn, and that all children deserve the opportunity to learn. 

Please visit the following link for more information on Anthony Sherin, and the original post from The Mighty: https://themighty.com/u/tsherin/

Daniel Franklin