There are eight specific objectives. First (1), students will be introduced to appropriate parenting skills and techniques of real life people from different walks of life in different periods of time: colonial New England, slavery through Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Era. While covering the various periods provides obvious variety to the presentation, it may prove interesting to reveal the differences and similarities of parenting throughout the decades. As students begin to see parents in action, (2) the class will begin to develop a mutually agreed upon definition of a parent and the group will initiate specific criteria upon which to judge good parenting. At some point in the year, the students may frame an ideal or several criteria for labeling some “good parents.”
Students will view and focus on parents of several ethnic and cultural backgrounds (3). While this particular unit has an African American focus, the intent is to bring students to the revelation that the basic job of parents and the skills used to nurture offspring are rather similar in most periods of American history.
With careful guidance from the teacher or the students’ own families, they will be able to discuss exercise of parental responsibility (4). How do you separate a good parent, or an instance of good parenting, from less desirable relationships and behaviors? Do they know of some real good parents? Student will compare or contrast parents on film with themselves, their families, or families close to them (5).
Families of students will be encouraged to view movies together at home and to take time to discuss the films and parenting in general (6). In the hustle/bustle of urban life, the accomplishment of this objective lends credence to the validity of informal learning in places other than the classroom. In terms of parenting, this may prove to be a highly important objective, if one accepts that parents are the child’s first teachers and continue to be, even in the turbulent years of adolescence. In order to reach this goal, the teacher will create study guides to be sent home, along with information on locating some of the films suggested. The use of the public library and its free services will be first reference.
Most reading specialists will agree that at the teenage years, the expansion of interest is a key to reading improvement and skill building. This unit reintroduces the public library and popular films. The library can be a family place and the films will feature leading figures with which many families can identify.
If other objectives are successfully reached, students will be motivated to read books and articles about the parents shown in films. They will be encouraged to read reviews and other pertinent material (7). The focus on the use of film here must revitalize the students’ desire to seek more information and role models in print. Each week, the local magazine racks are filled with new articles about important people and stars who are parenting. Local bookstores, libraries, and personal bookshelves are filled with biographies of well known parents. For instance, LL Cool J, a popular rap artist and television star (James Todd Smith), released his autobiography, I Make My Own Rules (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1997), about a year ago. The teenagers of today all know him and also know about his three children and family life.
The last objective is for the teacher. This unit is designed to practice some creative uses of block schedules (8). Public high schools have traditionally maintained periods of about 45 minutes for instruction in the required classes. Now, some experimentation with longer periods of time or blocks of time is taking place. In some places, this is involving interdisciplinary approaches to graduation requirements. Just filling up 60 or 90 minutes is not the objective here. This unit calls for using the longer period of time to foster student directed learning in creative, modern ways.