I watched The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete tonight and I was illuminated about some aspects of black culture along with the culture of poverty for all races. I love movies that shine a light on a world I don’t know first hand. As I watched the film, I gained empathy for some of my African American students who face similar challenges. I won’t be as hard on some students in my class who don’t perform up to my culture influenced rubrics. For some kids in poverty, we as teachers need to have different priorities. If a child is virtually raising him/herself, we should praise them for applying her/himself even in a lesser way than a child with parents. Are we preparing students for a test or for survival in the real world. I think every teacher would benefit from watching this movie. School is like a sanctuary. When you see how starved Mister becomes, you realize that it’s Summer and if he were in school, at least he would get a meal.
I’m more aware this year of the culture of poverty and of the black culture especially because my school has a high percentage of African American students. I am working to address the specific needs of kids who are surviving through this. After seeing this film, I am mindful to praise these students even in the small things they do right. Their situation is often severe at home. Some kids in our classes have profound problems in their homes and need a foundation at school where they know they will receive praise. This is often difficult because they have an attitude. The next time you encounter one in your students, remember that attitude may be the only thing keeping them alive. If you have kids in poverty in your classroom, you might try rethinking your priorities with them. We all want our students to score high academically but you’ll never get there until you consider the needs of your students at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. Don’t forget you can be the beacon that leads them out of poverty and into a productive, fruitful career ad life. If you don’t help them, there may be few else who can.