“Not being outraged by anything is a superpower.”
– James Pierce
The other day, I saw a scene from the movie Detachment which was released in 2012. The scene portrayed a teacher entering the classroom for the first of the semester. In other words, the session portrayed in the scene was the introductory session of an English class for high school students. From the very beginning, the teacher is challenged by two particular students who might appear as they actually run things in this class as they act and say whatever comes to their mind. To the point that their behaviour and words turn into pure provocation and lack of respect towards the teacher. What followed was actually interesting and eye-opening.
Instead of raising his voice or even just threatening the concerned students, the teacher – Mr Barthes – remained calm. A bit too calm. After a few seconds of reflection, the teacher approached the first student and told him that he was free to leave the class. As for the second student, the approach was completely different. Instead of throwing him out like he did with the first student, Barthes took the time to reason with and understand the student. He replied:
“I understand you are angry. But I am one of the few people here trying to give you an opportunity. I am going to ask you to sit down and try your best”.
I could write an entire article about the approach used by the professor. I would start by focusing on the way he dealt with the second student. Barthes was faced with a conflict, a problem, a battle. No doubt about that. However, he understood that the battle was not between the student and him; it was the two of them against the problem. Once this image was clear and well defined in his head, he was able to tackle the problem and not the student. Instead of pushing the student away and leaving him with his personal problems, Barthes decided to give him his hand. He wanted to help, but only if the student was willing to take his hand.
Once again, this is not the focus I am going to use in this article. I want to focus on something else that happened in this scene. I am still focusing on the conflict between Mr. Barthes and the second student. It made me think about the way teachers deal with particular students nowadays, at least from what I saw in school and then university. We have all often been told that at the end of the day, “everything happens for a reason”. If you do a little research on the meaning of this phrase, the results will often describe it as a way to say that better things are coming your way even when everything seems to be pointing in the opposite direction. The only thing constant in this universe is that nothing is constant forever. Everything is constantly evolving and changing.
It is important to always look forward in life for things to come and opportunities. At the same time, one cannot look towards the future if one does not fully understand the past and its link to the present. How can we look towards the future when we are still stuck in the past? How can we make things around us when we refuse to learn from the past? People often talk about how they miss the “good old days”, when things were better and simpler. Was it always the case? We often fail to understand the way things are because we refuse to take a step back, understand the cause behind this present situation and how we can avoid such horrendous things to happen again.
“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh and blood. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”
– V For Vendetta
They say a person dies twice: the first time is when they are buried; the second time is when the last person to say their name has died. Ideas never die until no one reflects on them anymore. Put simply:
Hitler is not dead. We still have Nazism running the streets of cities around the world.
The Ku Klux Klan is not dead either. Racism still roars around us through words and actions of hate towards people who have a different skin complexion than we do.
The only reason people should be looking backwards is in order to understand how they got to the present. Understand the root of the problem. Jumping to conclusions without trying to understand the root of the problem is just the concept of postponing an eventual catastrophe for a little while. Barthes understood that. He understood that there was a reason that the second student quickly got in angry although nothing had happened prior to this scene. Barthes is the exact type of teacher we need in our world today.
It is easy to say that not all teachers are that calm and understanding. That claim would be accurate. At the end of the day, teachers are humans as well. They are flawed. They make mistakes. They have their own problems at home and/or at work. They are depressed. They are anxious. And yet, they still get up in the morning, come to class and give it their all for their students. Day in, day out. Week in, week out. Month in, month out. Semester in, semester out. Year in, year out.
How much struggle do teachers already go through just to make sure that they deliver a high-quality class for their students?
How harder does it get when students disrespect them or do not put in any form of effort?
“There is so much pain and I do not know how to not notice it.”
– The Perks of Being A Wallflower
During the lockdown period in France, several parents took it to social media to say that school teachers are being underpaid. That is true, yet it is not the only problem. There are two groups of teachers: those who come to class and explain some math theorem to you for an hour three times a week, and those who are with you at home. Yes, teachers are being underpaid when we evaluate the amount of work and effort they put in for students like you and me. However, education does not start at school.
Education starts at home. It starts with the parents. If an adult is not willing to put in at least half the time and effort a teacher puts in for their child, then that adult does not deserve to be a parent. Respect is taught at home. Hate is taught at home. Racism is taught at home. Home is where one learns to truly become a man or a woman. Someone who will achieve great things. Someone who will stand up for what is right. Someone who will respect and even salute those who put it all on the line for better generations.
Soldiers. Firefighters. Nurses. Doctors. And more.
And yet, all of the above show even greater respect towards those who sacrificed even more for them: teachers.
To all the teachers who have accompanied me so far, as well as those who accompany me today, thank you. Thank you for the remarks, for the listening, for the advice, for the kindness, for the challenges. Thank you for always encouraging me to aim higher. My parents are teachers too, and believe me when I tell you that they would go to the moon and back for their students.
“Everyone who remembers their own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.”
– Sidney Hook