We watched Stand and Deliver today in Intermediate Algebra. Even though I’ve seen it so many times, I still love it.
One of my calc students was in my room at the time and he said, “Hey! I love this movie! It’s the reason I decided to take calculus.”
“You’re kidding,” I pressed, certain a movie couldn’t have had that kind of impact.
“No, I’m dead serious. I saw it in PreCalc and decided that if they could do it [pass the AP Calc exam], so could I!”
I thought that was amazing.
I emailed his PreCalc teacher right away and thanked her for showing it to her kids last year.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s (loosely) based on the true story of a math teacher named Jaime Escalante, who defies all odds and starts a successful AP Calculus program at a low-income school in the 1980s. It’s truly a beautiful story. One of my favorite moments is when Jaime is at his lowest (every teacher can relate) and he tells his wife that he is thinking about going back to his industry job. “I’ll get paid twice as much for fewer hours and I’ll get respect.”
“Respect?” His wife responds, as she shakes her head. “Jaime. Those kids love you.”
Ugh. Gets me every time. I heard one girl in sixth hour ask, “Are you crying?”
I sat up quickly and blinked my eyes right as I realized she was asking her friend, not me. Close call.
Speaking of sixth hour, they were the absolute cutest. They asked if they could sit up front (on the floor). I quickly glanced at my co-teacher. We’ve taught together enough that we can pretty much read each others’ minds in situations like this. I’m pretty sure we were both thinking, This could really backfire on us, but what the hell. And so we let them lie on the floor, heads on their backpacks. And that imagine of all of them–black, Latino, and white–eyes glued to screen as they laughed (and maybe even cried) together will be seared in my memory for quite a while.
It was a beautiful thing.
It’s very rare that I show movies in class, but this was so worth it.