In the film Entre Les Murs, a teacher struggles to connect with his students and to promote a safe and inclusive classroom environment. There are two key issues I saw in the film that I would like to relate to my own personal experience as a teacher.
The first issue I’d like to talk about was the fact that the teachers in the film were setting limits on their students and didn't believe their students could improve. Prior to getting to know their students, the teachers were labeling their student's ability to learn. This is seen in how the teachers were talking about their students condescendingly with each other, and to the students directly. Furthermore, the teachers all seemed to agree that suspension and expulsion was the only solution for problematic students. These teachers believed that expulsion was the only option because there was ‘no hope’ for these students. An argument that is often made in favor of this is that by expelling these ‘hopeless’ students they cannot harm other student’s education. While this may be reasonable in situations where students are very abusive/violent, these ‘problematic’ students will be living in society amongst ‘unproblematic’ students one way or another. So they need to learn how to cooperate and behave appropriately. I believe these ‘problematic’ students are capable of learning in the right classroom setting. By just expelling students, the education system is destroying their opportunity to learn/improve.
In my experience teaching ESL, it was very common for my co-workers to label students as stupid, bad, slow or generally incapable. This negative approach is not only super unprofessional, but more importantly unproductive. If you hold such a negative perception of students outside of the classroom, I can guarantee that this negative perception will be brought into the classroom with you. I understand how it is tempting to ‘gossip’ about students, as being a teacher can be a frustrating and stressful profession at times, but teachers need to recognize how it can negatively affect their teaching practices. If you hold a positive outlook of your student’s abilities to grow and learn your teaching practices will be much more affective. This positive attitude would be noticed by parents and students, inspire your co-workers to be positive (no one likes to work with people who are negative all the time), and make teaching more enjoyable for you!
The second issue that I saw in this film was the fact that the Francois Marin (the teacher in the movie) can get visibly frustrated at his students when they do not meet his expectations. Again, I understand that teaching is a stressful and frustrating profession at times, but this does not justify getting angry or yelling at students EVER. Remaining calm as a teacher takes practice and I definitely improved over my year teaching in Korea. When I was less experienced, I would let my emotions show more. Now I feel experienced enough to not let a student’s poor behavior make me visibly frustrated. I can stay calm and react appropriately.
Overall, I enjoyed Entre Les Murs and these were just a few experiences I felt were reflected in the movie :).