Movies that Will Inspire You:
Learning to See the Child Who is Not Yet There
Film number four is a little different in that it tells the story of a high school teacher. Here again, no matter what the age of the students, this is the story of a man who could see and hold the vision of what his students could be and do. He held this vision against the odds of poverty, a broken system and gangs. The film, which stars Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Andy Garcia, is available on Netflix and other venues. Public libraries often have a good selection of films, or you can rent them or even buy your favorites through Amazon.com. A brief excerpt is included at the end of this post.
Stand and Deliver tells the story of Jaime Escalante. Jaime, who originally came from Bolivia, quit a lucrative job to teach computer science in a high school in East Los Angeles. When he arrived at the school, he learned that there were no computers because of lack of funding, and he was assigned instead to teach basic math. Once he got into his work, he realized that his tough young students could do far more than was being asked of them. He had the nerve to suggest that they could actually attempt calculus. He was ridiculed by his peers and the administration for thinking the East LA kids could do higher math.
He reminded his students of the achievements of their Hispanic forebearers in math and demanded that they come up higher. They gave up weekends and summers to meet his high expectations for them, which became their own expectations for themselves. They went from basic math to Advanced Placement (AP) calculus. In one of the lowest scoring schools in California, he was able to support the largest group of AP calculus students ever to graduate from a single school. The film depicts the suspicious reactions from the organization that oversees standardized testing that followed his initial success.
After these amazing results, year after year, Jaime told me he was hounded out of the LA Unified School District. His successes were an affront to the norm. His experience was the same story Marva Collins had told; the schools did not seem to want them to succeed.
But Jaime could see the child who was not yet there. It was his greatest passion, his greatest challenge, and his greatest success to help the students find it within themselves.
Stand and Deliver is a terrific film and I highly recommend it. It has some rough language and it may not be appropriate for younger children, however, so please watch it with this in mind.