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Topic: Re: J. Escalante and L. Lieber
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David Scott Powell

Posts: 54
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: J. Escalante and L. Lieber
Posted: Jun 2, 1995 3:44 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply

Oops, sorry. I think I sent this in the wrong manner. I appologize for the
extra posts.

Alfred Barron wrote:

>I recently completed the book, 'The Best Teacher in America', which as some
>of you may know is the story of Jamie Escalante, who was, and presumably still
>is, a high school math teacher in California. What is interesting about this
>guy was that he taught calculus to a group of "basic math" kids, relatively
>impoverished (and presumably incorrigible ?) ones at that. Looking back on my
>own lmited experience, I'm certainly impressed with his accomplishment. For
>one it seems to cut across many of the preconceptions which I believe are held
>sacrosant by many educators and academics. I wonder, for example, how well
>modern educational modeling methods would do with data from Escalante's East
>LA schools ? Maybe treat them as outliers ? Any thoughts ?

Al, to be fair I must say I didn't read the book but I still have some
observations(I did see the movie "Stand and Deliver") that maybe should be
thought about.

(1) Personality: It seems to me that part of the reason Mr. Escalante had
such great success(at least in terms of his goals) is because of his very
stricking personality. He seemed to almost will those students to learn
and nearly died from exhaustion doing it. I personally have never met him
but I have taught with a teacher who was very similar as far as results and
how much he could get out of a particular student. I would only caution a
comparison with him in that not many of us are like that or have enough
time in our lives to be able to do something like he has done. How many
other Escalantes have you heard about?

(2) Situation. Mr. Escalante seemed to be the right person at the right
time in the right place. Could anyone walk into an east LA highschool and
do what he did? Could a white teacher get the same results out of those
kids? Could a teacher who had been in the school for 20 years get the same
results? Could a young teacher with a family get the same results? I am
not trying to say what he has done is not great, but it seems like he was
THE man to do it. Remember, in the movie he gave up his summer(no pay I
think) to teach these kids. How many of us would be willing and how many
kids could we get to do it?

(3) Goals. Mr. Escalante had definite goals in mind. Taking kids with
not much success and training them to be great calculus students. If that
is the goal of every teacher, would we really be doing our students a
favor? He also seemed to be able to do what he wanted within the
department(possibly because of his dominating personality). How many
teachers of any age or experience would get that sort of power?

There are many other questions but I think if we start comparing ourselves
to isolated examples we will never find a true measure(did that make sense
at all?) of our own abilities, goals and attributes as teachers.

One persons humble opinion.


Scott Powell
1776 University Ave.
University Lab School
Honolulu, Hi, 96822

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