Highlight text to annotate itX
All I want you to do is, you're gonna look at me
and you're gonna repeat after me, and whatever I do,
you have to do. Got it?
Hello. Kids: Hello.
OK, just checking.
My name is Laurence Tan and I am a fifth grade elementary school teacher.
The nine planets. Kids: The nine planets.
The nine planets. Kids: The nine planets.
Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Kids: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
Laurence Tan, whose family is originally from the Philippines,
has been teaching elementary school in the Watts area of Los Angeles for 10 years.
My teaching is definitely informed by my experiences as an immigrant.
Because I don't approach my students as "Oh, you know-- 'those kids.'"
Well, once you're in my class, you become part of my family.
My constructed sense of family.
And I think that type of mentality is what shaped my teaching.
I was born in Toronto, Canada.
Going to kindergarten in Canada, and I knew Tagalog, which is Philippine language,
and I remember that first day I went,
and knowing that everyone spoke English,
and I was very shy, and I didn't think I fit in.
I always felt like this outsider.
I was successful in school.
And at the tail end of college,
when everything was-- you know --the future was right in front of me--
I was pre-med and I was gonna be a doctor,
and I honestly had a dream.
It was in the middle of a mid-day nap
and I woke up from this dream and in my dream I was a teacher.
I was having peace of mind.
I was enjoying what I was doing.
And I woke up with that epiphany,
that sense like "This is it! This is what I need to do."
And then I came to Los Angeles to become a teacher.
The first four planets around our stars, and we're gonna-- around our stars!
That first year was-- it was a battle.
They weren't used to having this much choice and privilege.
It was always, "Sit in your seat, be quiet,"
versus me: like, "Come on, guys, we can talk."
Talk to your neighbor real quick about a couple other inventions.
Think of an invention that helped astronomy.
They can use, like, an airplane!
Or a rocket!
I'm gonna challenge you and if you can pass my challenge, then you pass.
I don't follow a book.
I don't follow, you know, a script.
And being able to go outside the box really makes a difference.
Draw a picture of your vehicles, that's the creativity part.
I liked when he does fun projects with us,
but I don't really like from him when he's too strict with us.
We, like, know that he's supposed to be doing that
because if he just let us have fun then we won't learn nothing.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe some of you will run out of time.
If you wait Sunday, if you wait Saturday-- if that's your style, fine.
But, if your style crashes and burns, meaning you come in,
you have nothing, then how can you improve just by that alone?
How can you improve?
The kids that I work with, generally speaking,
have been-- have a lot of situations and history
where they have moments of people giving up on them.
And I don't want to be added to that, to that list.
Come on. Take out your homework!
Laurence's day doesn't end when the school day ends.
He keeps his classroom open to provide homework help for any student who needs it.
Make sure you guys all sign in.
I started out teaching thinking that for a hundred eighty days, for that school year
I'm going to give you a hundred and ten percent.
And that never has changed.
My days typically is 6:30 in the morning, as one of the earliest teachers,
and I'm definitely the last one to leave today.
That's a good twelve hours, but I can go home and feel good that I accomplished a lot.
One of Laurence's extracurricular projects is the Watts Youth Collective,
a youth-led organization that promotes social change through media.
Laurence founded the group 5 years ago in collaboration with his former students.
You guys are going to look at environmental justice.
These are your statements and we're just going to help you modify your statements.
But I really want it to be student-created.
The mission of the Watts Youth Collective is to create positive changes in and around
the community as well as themselves.
Now we're going to get in six groups of four and we're gonna do commercials.
Are you tired of being ignorant?
Are you tired of not having someone to look up to?
My students wanted to do community work, video, counter-media stuff,
but they didn't know how.
As the supporter, I would take what they wanted to do
and I'd devise workshops, come up with meetings.
So Watts's profile is probably the landmark documentary of the group.
Racial profiling is the way cops address an individual by the way they look, dress and act.
They pulled him over and my Dad is asking the policeman, "What did I do wrong?"
He didn't know what to tell them.
They made us lift up our shirts to see if we have tattoos and then after that,
they went into the house to check what we had.
You know what, we should get to know each other, see what we're about.
We're all living here, like, in this community,
and we're supposed to like make something good.
They wanted to address black and brown tensions in the communities.
We're talking about collective organizing, collective struggle, collective change.
In a way, it also kind of motivated the students to kind of: "OK, what's our next project?"
Everyone kind of relies and depends on this place to let out their feelings and be their self.
And I think that's important in every young teen and even adult's life.
Mr. Tan has kind of, like, always been there to,
like, always remind me that I am a great person,
that I am a smart person.
He has played a really huge role in my life,
and he's actually the closest person to me.
Like, I look at you guys and you guys inspire me.
That's why I keep doing what I do.
Realizing that what I do matters helps me continue to go forward.
This is my revolutionary duty.
This is how it's going to change.
By affecting the youth and the youth affecting other youth.
Teaching is not a job to me.
It's something I live.