I recently saw the French movie Entre les murs, (The Class), 2008, which depicted a teacher that taught French to a group of racially diverse high school students in France. Most of the teachers were well meaning but seemed to be dealing with a lot of antiquated institutional policies that unfortunately seemed to miss the boat when connecting with the students. (“Maybe we should have a point system and take away points for bad behavior” was one idea at a recent staff meeting). While the French teacher was no Erin Gruwell he did have a way of reaching the students that the others did not.

  • He assigned them to do a self portrait essay and got to know them more as individuals through this project
  • He let them speak their feelings about controversial issues during class
  • He was a little more lenient with rules such as no cell phones in the classroomHis interactions made me think of the ways that we as librarians engage with teens and how sometimes the institutional restrictions (across the board rules, traditional attitudes, fear of being the only one that thinks different, etc.) might prevent us from doing so in a way that we think could be helpful.

    Toward the end of the movie, the teacher got into a heated discussion on the playground with the students in trying to define what made them different as teens, from him as an adult, in terms of respect and using certain words that had different meanings to the age groups. While trying to understand better himself, ultimately he wasn’t able to completely bridge the large gaps that existed between teacher/student. It was a good lesson in seeing how behaviors have domino effects and while we might not have all the answers ourselves, we can still work to make a difference in small ways.

  • About Kelly Czarnecki

    Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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