Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Class (Rhoades)

“The Class” Gets A Gold Star

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My wife used to teach a group of students known as “the Zoo.” The difficult kids. Each school year the challenge was how to get them to learn anything.

That seems to be the case in “The Class” (or “Entre les murs”), the French film about a dedicated-but-struggling teacher that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

François Bégaudeau not only based the screenplay on his novel about his experiences as a teacher of a racially mixed group of students in a Parisian neighborhood, but he also stars in this wonderful little film.

Most of the action is verbal, repartee between teacher and students in the classroom. We meet the unresponsive black girl, the tattletale “skanks,” the brilliant Chinese kid, the rebellious thug on the verge of being expelled.

Can this teacher engage them, assure that they’ve at least learned one thing during the school year? Maybe, maybe not.

A classroom incident that involves abusive language, accidental bloodletting, and defiance of the teacher’s authority brings the film to a climax. François must undergo some thoughtful soul-searching to determine the fate of his students.

Do I think he came to the right decision? No, I didn’t – and neither did my ex-teacher wife.
But in the end it’s about learning.

A student who has read Socrates’ “The Republic” unknowingly sums up the role of the teacher when she awkwardly describes the book: “He stops people in the street and ask them: Are you sure of thinking what you think? Are you sure of doing what you do? And so on. After that, people start getting confused. They ask questions. The guy’s too much.”

You’ll find yourself – just like the students in François’ class – asking questions about the art of teaching.
[from Solares Hill]

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