“How do I reach these kids?!”
This is one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. I heard it for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school, one of the last days of school we watched what is, in my opinion, one of the best movies… Stand and Deliver. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick synopsis:
“In the early 1980s, Jaime Escalante becomes a math teacher at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. The school is full of Hispanic students from working-class families who are far below their grade level in terms of academic skills and also have a lot of social problems. Escalante seeks to change the school culture to help the students excel in academics. He soon realizes the untapped potential of his class and sets a goal of having the students take AP Calculus by their senior year. Escalante instructs his class under the philosophy of ganas, roughly translating to “desire” or “motivation.”
The students begin taking summer classes in advanced mathematics with Escalante, who must withstand the cynicism of the other faculty, who feel that the students are not capable of this. As they struggle with the lower expectations that they face in society, Escalante works hard to teach and encourage them, and they pass the AP Calculus exam.
To the dismay of both Escalante and the students, the Educational Testing Service questions the success of the students, insisting there is too much overlap in their errors and suggesting the students cheated. Escalante defends his students and feels that the allegations are based more on racial and economic perceptions. He offers to have the students retake the test months later, and the students all succeed in passing the test again, despite only a day to prepare, which ends all concerns of cheating.”Wikipedia.com
This is a true teacher inspiration story, which is probably why I love it so much. When he gets frustrated and wants to give up he utters the phrase, “How do I reach these kids…” I think about this clip from the movie almost daily as a seventh and eighth grade teacher. I am constantly trying to figure out how I can reach my students and get them motivated to succeed in school.
Within my classroom I have multiple groups of students; each class has a group that gets all of the work done early, that turn in work of high quality and complete, and that ace every test. I also have a group of kids that just don’t care, no matter how much I try to differentiate the lesson or make it hands on versus just sitting and doing work, they just don’t want to be here and don’t try. The hardest part with this group is that it seems like their parents don’t care too. When I make phone calls home or send emails the parents say they will talk with the students and that surely I will see a change in the student the next day, however that seems to just be something they say to get me off the phone faster. Then there are the middle kids, some of these kids try not to care because caring isn’t cool, some are trying so hard but are just not capable of achieving the work at their grade level, and some are just lost. Lost in the classroom, lost in their lives, lost in their own heads. They don’t know what is going on or how to make it better.
As much as I hate to say it, my heart goes out to these “Middle” kids because knowing the education system, these are the kids that will get left behind. They aren’t high flyers who will be in gifted or AP classes, they aren’t the lowest level students with IEPs or 504 Plans which will ensure they get the extra support they need, they fall between the cracks of the education system. These are the “Stand and deliver” kids, the kids that people doubt but don’t want to put the extra support into, All it takes is one teacher, one person who is willing to put forth the extra effort, that does believe that low socioeconomic students can pass the AP Calculus test.
Teaching is hard. Teaching seventh and eighth grade is harder…
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