Objectives | Background | Activity | Standards
This lesson will help students:
- Reflect on why people become parents
- Understand the kind of commitment required to be a parent
- Consider notions of childhood and how media contributes to those notions
- Practice media analysis skills
This lesson will be most appropriate for most Health and Life Skills courses, with extensions that could be valuable for Sociology or History.
Video clips from Love & Diane
ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED:
If collection of media images is done as homework outside of class, 2 class periods.
During the 1980s, a crack cocaine epidemic ravaged many impoverished inner city neighborhoods. As parents succumbed to addiction, a generation of children entered the foster care system. Today, there are approximately 588,000 children in the foster care system in the United States, twice as many as in 1987. The average age of a child in foster care is 10. (Source: Child Welfare League of America)
The film Love & Diane explores the far-reaching impact of that situation on just one family. In just under two hours, Love & Diane documents a remarkable real-life drama of a mother and daughter desperate for love and forgiveness, but caught in a devastating cycle set spinning by drugs, guilt, poverty, and mental illness. Shot over several years, the film centers on eighteen-year-old Love, an HIV-positive mother of an infant son, and Diane, her once crack-addicted mother who has struggled to regain her life and get her children back from foster care. We see a reunited family haunted by Diane's past mistakes but laboring to reconnect and get off the treadmill of addiction and poverty.
Honest and immediate, Love & Diane shatters stereotypes and offers hope amidst seemingly insurmountable odds. As a portrait of a teen and her relationship with her mother, the film will resonate with many high school students. As a portrait of a teen mother who is also HIV positive, the film provides an excellent prompt for discussing risk-taking, decision-making, substance abuse, pregnancy, depression, and responsibility.
The full documentary is just under two hours long, too long for easy classroom use. This lesson, therefore, focuses on two clips from the film (described below). However, it is recommended that in preparation for the lesson, you view the film in its entirety so that you can provide context and background information to your students. The interactive timeline (see sidebar, "Special Resource") can help provide additional background.
CLIP ONE (approx. 8.5 minutes long) -- From beginning of film until Diane comments on why she had children.
Important comments in the clip:
Love: "I had a baby for myself, 'cos I needed somethin' in my life that made me feel good. He's so cute."
Diane: "I have a lot of kids. I had six children. Four girls and two boys. I figured the more I had, the more I'd be loved, the the more I can try to fill that empty space in my heart, the loneliness of not having a mother and a father. I wanted to be needed. I wanted them to need me, and to love me. When I had my son, Charles, oh, God, and I saw his little face and his little hands and his little toes, and all that hair he had, and I couldn't believe I helped create this, another human being. It was, it was such a beautiful thing. It was such a beautiful thing. But I was sixteen. You know, it was crazy, but I wanted it, and I felt that I needed it, and I felt the more kids that I had the more they would love me. But it always don't turn out that way.
CLIP TWO (approx. 5.75 minutes) -- Love caring for Donyaeh after she regains custody.
Scene begins as Love is opening suitcase after Donyaeh's foster mother has just gotten him ready to return to Love permanently. The scene continues as Love tries to care for Donyaeh and also study for her GED. It ends with her bathing him and trying to put him to sleep. She sits at the kitchen table as he calls to her. We see great love but we also see frustration and exhaustion.
Prior to the first class, ask students to collect and bring in media images of babies, either by themselves or with parents.
Step 1. Have a class discussion about expectations around having a child.
Why do people have children?
What do you think it will be like?
What do we think young children should be like?
Have the class generate a brief list in answer to each question.
Step 2. Share the collection of media images of babies and parents. As a collection, how are the media makers answering the three questions that the students answered:
Why do people have children?
What is having children like?
What are young children like?
Make a list of recurring themes and messages.
Step 3. View Clip One of Love & Diane. Discuss Love's and Diane's reasons for having children. Compare with the media messages and the students' expectations.
Step 4. View Clip Two of Love & Diane. Talk about how this clip of reality compares with everyone's expectations and with the media images.
Step 5. ASSESSMENT Ask each student to create a set of realistic expectations of what it is like to be the parent of a young child. Ask them to consider how they now spend their time in a typical day, and how their routine would change if they had to care for a child.
- Advanced students might research concepts of childhood from a different culture or historical time period and compare them to what they learned in the lesson. Places to begin research might include reading Hugh Cunnigham's text, "Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500" (1995), Paula S. Fass & Mary Ann Mason, eds., "Childhood in America" (2002), or checking resources on the website of the Society for the History of Children and Youth.
- Choose a novel that is told from the perspective of a child (e.g., James Agee's "A Death in the Family") and compare the concepts of childhood in the novel with those in the film.
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation has created a list of things that adults can do to help children in foster care. Take a look at the list and assign the class come up with a list that teens could do. Share the class' list with classmates and with local and national organizations that deal with foster care. Choose one of the suggestions on the list to work on as a class project.
- The Child Welfare League of America has created a set of standards for excellent practice in child welfare services. Investigate the services available in your community and see how they measure up. Share your results with local agency administrators, politicians, and civic leaders.
- Create a list of local resources available for teens who may be dealing with issues raised in the film, e.g., pregnancy, HIV status, depression, suicide, substance abuse, etc. Publish the list as a resource guide for students in your school and/or create a web page with links to the various resources.
- Assign the class to research rates of teen pregnancy. Start by asking students to estimate what they think the rates are now and what they have been in the past. Ask them to identify the source(s) of their current knowledge.
Through their research, students should be able to find out whether current rates are higher or lower today they were in 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994? A handy place to start the research might be the website of the Child Welfare League of America.
Have students compare their predictions to what they found and discuss any discrepancies.
This lesson can help you meet a variety of the requirements for Grades 9-12 in:
Standard 1. Knows the availability and effective use of health services, products and and information
Standard 2. Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health.
Standard 3. Understands the relationship of family health to individual health
Standard 4. Knows how to maintain mental and emotional health
Standard 7. Knows how to maintain and promote personal health
Standard 8. Knows essential concepts about the prevention and control of disease
Standard 9. Understands aspects of substance use and abuse
Standard 10. Understands the fundamental concepts of growth and development
All Standards under Self-Regulation