Sylvia Barrett is a rookie teacher at New York's inner-city Calvin Coolidge High: her lit classes are overcrowded, a window is broken, there's no chalk, books arrive late. The administration is concerned mainly with forms and rules (there's an up and a down staircase); bells ring at the wrong time. Nevertheless, she tries. How she handles the chaos and her despair in her first semester makes up the film: a promising student drops out, another sleeps through class, a girl with a crush on a male teacher gets suicidal, and a bright but troublesome student misunderstands Sylvia's reaching out. A discussion of Dickens, parents' night, and a mock trial highlight the term. Can she make it?
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Did You Know?
The U.S. State Department submitted this film to the 1967 Moscow Film Festival, in order to contradict Soviet propaganda, which implied that all American schools were racially segregated. See more
During the opening montage establishing the first day of school in September in a New York high school, several shots were obviously filmed in dead of winter with extras in heavy coats, gray skies, etc. contrasting wildly with scenes of sunny skies and lightweight costumes of main characters. See more
[Mr. McHabe notices Miss Barrett walking towards class with a homemade suggestion box
Oh. Suggestions, Miss Barrett, ahh? I must say you've got guts.
It's just an idea, Mr. McHabe. It seems to me that if the students have a chance to speak freely without fear of punishment...
Listen, you start running this school with ideas, you'll have riots in your rooms. Fear - That's all they understand.
Referenced in Reflections of Evil