Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 7:31 AM
I saw "Stand and Deliver" the other day, an excellent movie about Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher in the inner city LA during the 80s. Because of his drive (and the people around him), the math sections of the school gradually rise out of a sea of low expectations and achieve dramatically more than anyone could have hoped.
He has a boatload of personality and zeal, a great deal of "presence." This comes with its own costs - he has difficulty winning over the school administration, some students can't stand his style. Yet his strengths and success are evident - a deep love for the students and a willingness to put himself on the line for them. He pushes the school and the students to achieve far beyond what is expected of them - to pursue a concrete goal of succeeding on the AP Calculus exam. The results are striking. Not only do a great many students at the school pass the AP Calc exam, but a large percentage move up and out of the inner city and become successful members of society, citing the math program's influence.
I loved the movie, and even more the book (Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Mathews). Highly recommended. A call to teachers (and parents) to expect more of your students than the culture, to not just only be looking at the road in front of you, but also to where it ends.