In the movie “The Class,” I believe that the students are constantly learning, but other people might not take into account the type of learning that I could see. Some people prefer learning to be about something educational, such as math, science, or in the case of the movie, French. For me, I believe that even though the students were not necessarily learning about subject matter, they were still learning, but in this case, they were learning how to reason and substantiate their arguments. Throughout the movie, we see the rebellious students arguing with their teacher. Khoumba, for instance, refuses to read out loud, which she justifies by arguing that there are plenty of other people in the class who are more willing to read than her. Even though Khoumba does not win this argument, she still learns to support her argument instead of leaving it at “I just don’t want to do it.” Aside from that, some of the students also learn how to avoid learning in the classroom. For example, Souleymane refuses to bring his school materials during class, which prevents him from doing any class work. When the teacher asked him if he could borrow some paper and a pen from his neighbor, he told his teacher that he would do the work at home. The kids in the class are learning so many different things aside from what they are supposed to be learning that some people can see this as “not-learning.”
Throughout the movie, we see lots of constraints on the students’ learning. The teacher constantly demeans the students by always pointing out what they do not know and insulting them instead of praising what they know. Aside from that, the teacher puts on airs as if he knows everything, which the students have a hard time believing. Due to the way that the teacher is acting, the students have a difficult time accepting him as someone that they can trust so they treat him with hostility. Although the teacher has a rocky relationship with his students, I think that he is able to support them in other ways. When he was talking to another teacher about the book that they will read for his class, he rejected several books, claiming that those books are too difficult for their level. Although it may seem that he is degrading their intellect, I think that he just wants them to be able to experience success, which is why he wants to choose an easier book. Aside from that, his class is pretty democratic because the class mostly controls their own learning. We saw this when the students were talking about writing their own self-portraits, and how they finally took control by talking about their private lives. The teacher also supported the students by praising them, like the part when he praised Wei for his self-portrait. He also supported the students by giving them feedback, like when he gave Souleymane advice on how to further explain his pictures by adding “legends.”
The constraints on the students’ learning were also affected by language and culture because of misunderstandings. One of the major problems that the teacher had was his use of “skank” to mean a girl laughing out of control. That word is so derogatory that as soon as the students heard “skank,” they spiraled out of control; even though he meant to say they were “acting like skanks,” not “they are skanks,” the students heard what they wanted to hear. Another case where the students misunderstood his use of language happened when they were at the faculty meeting; he was defending Souleymane, but since he used “limited scholastic ability,” the girls assumed that he was insulting Souleymane. Aside from that, culture became a constraint as well when the students started having problems with each other’s cultural identities. Culture and language did not just affect the constraints in the students’ learning, but it affected the support as well. It was nice to see the teachers in the movie showing sympathy in Wei’s situation, even going as far as collecting money to help gather enough bail money to get his undocumented mother out of jail. As for language, the praise that the teacher gives Souleymane when he was working on his self-portrait clearly thrilled him; it looked as if he did not hear praise a lot, and when he heard it coming from his teacher, his smile just brightened his whole face.
I believe that as future teachers, we can potentially learn from this movie, but that does not make it any less difficult to watch. I certainly learned a lot of what not to do in the classroom from this movie, but I also learned how to deal with potential troublemakers. One of the most important things that I learned from this movie is that building a great relationship with the students from the start can definitely change the mood of the entire class. I imagine that if the teacher was not as condescending as he was in the movie, his students would have been more willing to learn instead of challenging each and every claim that he makes.