Stand and Deliver (1988) is a film following teacher Jaime Escalante as he teaches a class of mainly Hispanic students in a fairly impoverished school/community. He has a radical teaching style much different from the norm of teachers across the globe, where he frequently makes fun of children and has a ‘no tolerance’ policy for anything less than perfect.
Escalante, born in Bolivia in 1930, became one of the most famous educators in America, moving there in pursuit of a better life. As shown in this film, he taught disadvantaged pupils, whom some teachers had given up on completely, and managed to have a handful pass an extremely difficult Calculus test. Escalante’s success has earned him many accolades, including being entered into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999.
It is interesting to analyse Escalante’s teaching style in the film as it is far from conventional. He does not accept poor behaviour, and even why one student, Angel, walks out of the class, he merely says goodbye rather than chasing after him. Escalante is more concerned about the children who want to learn and believes that it is a privilege to be in his class. The children respect their teacher and want to do well for him. While his teaching style may be considered to be scaring his pupils into working hard, I believe he does this with a true sense of compassion and care for the future of these children. This caring nature is highlighted in the scene where Escalante gives Angel 3 textbooks – one for class, one for home and one for his locker – as he did not want to be seen carrying them around. This compromise can be useful in the classroom as it encourages conversation between teacher and student, rather than a one sided lecture from the teacher, which can cause the students to disengage.
When looking at specific teaching points in the film, it is clear that there are lessons to be learned from Escalante’s teaching. For example, a quote from the film that resonates with me is “Students will rise to the level of expectation”. It is crucial that teachers have high expectations for their students as it shows a confidence in them that they may not have themselves. I hope to remember this along my teaching journey.
Another example is how to help the children understand what he is teaching them, he uses language and problems that make sense to them – he gives the problems a sense of relevance. One example of this is when he uses numbers of girlfriends in a problem (see the below clip).
Using girlfriends instead of other objects such as apples or pens engages the children, making them laugh and therefore creating a relaxed classroom atmosphere where the pupils are confident in answering questions. Another example is where the pupils ask the real life benefit of learning these things and their teacher takes them on a trip to show them exactly how that maths is used in the real world. This idea links to the principle of relevance within the Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive 2004, p15).
It is important that we teach children why they are learning things. While this seems to be an accepted part of the curriculum, maths, in my opinion, seems to miss this principle. In a broader sense, you can often hear students, especially at high school, saying “Where’s the point in this? When will this ever help me in real life?” This shows a distinct lack of teacher communication with the children about why they are learning these topics. In terms of more basic level mathematics, learners need to know what all these different rules and formulas actually mean. Pupils could be given rules and memorize them, which tends to be the case, however, they have no true understanding of why. This may be the case because many teachers themselves do not know the reason why, as they have been taught just to memorize the rules, therefore getting trapped in an endless cycle of knowing but not understanding.
I believe that I myself fall into the above category. While I enjoy maths and teaching it, I would say that I do not have a depth of knowledge in why maths happens. I hope to look into areas of mathematics in more depth in order to improve my knowledge of maths and my ability to teach it to a strong degree.
Biography.com Editors (2014) Jaime Escalante Biography. Available at: http://www.biography.com/people/jaime-escalante-189368 (Accessed: 15/09/16).
Scottish Executive (2004) A Curriculum for Excellence. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/Doc/26800/0023690.pdf (Accessed on 15/09/16)