How does Jaime Escalante teach differently/how is Jamie Escalante different?
Stand and Deliver (1988) is a film set in the 1970’s following a maths teacher (Jaime Escalante) in a deprived area of Los Angeles. At the beginning of the film, Escalante is having a particularly hard time at the high school with troublesome students and pressure from the school head teachers to control the taxing class.
Escalante can see the potential in a class full of teenagers likely to drop out. The takes on the challenge of teaching a class AB Calculus to a seriously mixed ability class ranging with some who have potential to go to college to others who did not even know their timetables. Throughout this blog post, I am going to look at the inspiring teaching shown through Escalante in Stand and Deliver (1988).
Jaime Escalante attempts to win over his pupils to education and respected him through joking, mimicking them and getting down to their level. Escalante shows a young man who used his fingers to swear at him other ways to use his fingers such as using his fingers to learn his nine times tables. The maths teacher shows his pupil that by going along your fingers by the number of times you wish to multiple by nine put that finger down and you get the answer with the tens on the left hand side and the units on the right and side.
The joking and relaxed atmosphere that Escalante brought to his classroom made the pupils want to be there – they continued to work on their AB Calculus throughout holiday periods and weekends over other commitments through their own free choice. This made Jamie Escalante stand out for me as a teacher as there was never any teacher that I have had never made the atmosphere so relaxing. That is probably due to the fact that this film was set almost 40 years ago and the teaching community has changed a lot since then. There is no longer a place in the teaching community that allows for the relationship Escalante had with his class. Escalante had a personal relationship with his students that would more than likely be frowned upon in the modern day teaching society. However, as Escalante’s wife said in the film not only did the students respect him “those kids love you”.
Escalante makes maths seem simple to his class by using everyday examples. Jaime Escalante explained negative and positive numbers as digging a hole in the sand at the beach. He explained the negative numbers as the hole in the sand and the positive numbers as the sand used to fill the hole. Personally, I thought this was a very interesting way to explain negative and positive number and something that you could use within a primary school.
The few words in my notes that I had highlighted throughout the film however do not comment on his teaching skills, they comment on the kind of teacher Escalante was made to be throughout the film. The words I had highlighted were: belief, dedication and his drive. Escalante’s wife said in the film that Jamie was doing 60 hours a week of teaching and had just signed up to teach a night class for free. This shows Escalante’s passion and drive for teaching and his will to get his students to pass AB Calculus. The main characteristic and theme throughout the film however, was Escalante’s belief in his students. No one else, not the teachers, the students or the examination board, believed that the students could pass the AB test but that just made Escalante work harder and longer to push and drive his students to passing. Escalante never forced anyone in his class to take AB Calculus, he encouraged and supported them throughout the entire film even when examination board questioned their papers.
Escalante never gave up on his students. I feel that is the key message to any teacher watching this film. That is a message that I, personally, will not forget from this film.