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By Eric Campos | September 22, 2006

50% of teachers quit within the first three years. This is the statistic displayed to us upon film’s open. In the following 85 minutes we find out why.

Similar in shades to “The Office,” this mockumentary finds a film crew wandering the halls and classrooms of a Texas high school in order to find out why the aforementioned statistic is true. They focus on a select few teachers, as well as the assistant principal. We have the brand new history teacher whose unease with his own teaching skills makes him an easy target for harassment by his bored students. Then there’s the other history teacher, cocky, been around the block a few times, nice guy but doesn’t take s**t from his students, and is gunning for teacher of the year award even though he sucks at teaching history. We also have the feisty and strict female gym teacher who insists that all teachers stick to administering proper discipline when a student is late to class. And then there’s the brand new assistant principal who struggles to balance her school duties with her personal life. These four characters take us through one whole grueling year of high school as they struggle with stubborn kids, as well as the fact that they’re not very good at their jobs.

Squirm and laugh as the teachers deal with unresponsive kids, petty office politics and a never ending supply of self-doubt. You also won’t want to miss the Spelling Hornet, a school event devised to help create a bond between teachers and students. In the Spelling Hornet, it’s the teachers who are in competition against one another as they’re made to spell modern slang words as dictated by the students. Yes, as embarassing as most of these situations get, there’s always a strong foundation of love and admiration for both the profession and the kids who benefit from it. And that respect comes from the filmmakers having first hand experience with the subject.

Director and co-writer Mike Akel based this movie off of his three year public high school teaching stint. Along with co-writer and one of the leading actors, Chris Mass, who currently teaches high school World Geography, Mike nails the feeling of high school hell. I can’t say this from a teacher’s viewpoint, but as a former high school student who gave many a teacher a hard time, I can say that the situations here are pretty damn accurate. All of the kids used in the film are students who sacrificed a summer vacation to become little movie stars. And as for the teachers, an amazing cast of actors who, once given the framework of the story, were allowed to improv most of their performance. The results are side-splitting.

“Chalk” is loaded with life, energy, truth and respect. It may just make you yearn for your high schooling days. Okay, maybe not, but “Chalk” will have you laughing long after the movie has ended. How’s that for homework?

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