Sideways into the classroom

Simonka de Jong / Documentary / 2023 / 55'

For years, the government has been spending millions to eliminate the teacher shortage. The use of so-called lateral entrants must ensure a catch-up in the coming years. In the documentary Sideways, we witness the transition of people who give up their comfortable lives with thriving careers to be more meaningful to the society. We see them struggle with lively, noisy and challenging groups of children, but also connect with them in very touching ways.
Director Simonka de Jong follows several participants in the Amsterdam ‘crash course’, during which they’ll have to stand in front of a class of busy kids for the first time in their lives and where they’ll be judged on their potential qualities. Kim (48) is a single mother who recently lost her partner. She comes through the course unscathed; unlike many other participants. She starts a work experience programme at a primary school and gives up her job as a planner in a hospital. Will she pass the final assessment?

Michel Penders (50) is a tall man with a deep voice and an impressive beard. He is a hospitality entrepreneur in Amsterdam, but his biggest dream in life has always been to become a teacher. He is doing an internship at primary school ‘De Waterkant’, where the little boys are happy to finally have a teacher with whom they can talk about football and who without batting an eye tells them how babies are born.
What motivated these lateral entrants to make the switch? Why would you want to start doing something completely different? But also: how do you learn to keep order in a classroom? How do you get children to learn? It all turns out to be super complicated. At the same time, we see how that one teacher can really make a difference and how important motivation is.


Development financed by


Simonka de Jong
Simonka de Jong, Liesbeth Witteman


Nederlands Film Festival, 2023