Entre les Murs is a French drama film based off of a 2006 novel by François Bégaudeau regarding his experiences as a French language and literature teacher in a middle school in Paris. The film highlights issues he deals with in his classroom, particularly with students like Esmerelda, Khoumba, and Souleymane. Bégaudeau plays himself in the role of the French teacher, Monsieur Marin.
At the beginning of the film, teachers are being welcomed by current staff to the new school environment. I was surprised to see that one teacher identified his teaching subject as 'multiplication tables' and that he occasionally teaches math. Off the bat, I could tell that this school was probably an urban school, and it's unfortunate that I was able to identify this by the 'subject title' he was going to teach. During this introduction, new teachers were laughing when current teachers would introduce themselves and the length of time they had been teaching at that school. It suggested that is must be very difficult to stay at this school for more than a year before quitting and moving on to another. One of the almost-retired teachers also wished 'courage' to the new recruits, again displaying a forefront of the urban school to the new teachers before they even set foot into their classrooms.
I was not surprised at all to see that former teachers were going through a class list with new teachers and identified who are the 'nice' and 'not nice' students. I feel as though this would be routine for anyone who teaches in urban schools because of the stereotype that is given to these students.
The film was very good at capturing what an actual class would be like. I felt like I was a student in the French class and it was boring for me because I felt like I was in grade 9 all over again. The chaos that was set in the classroom atmosphere is one that I am accustomed too- it reminded me of my elementary days where we would drive the supply teacher crazy because we didn't want to learn what they were teaching. "What is the point of teaching something that is not interesting" - a question imposed by one of M. Marin's students and one that is asked often in various classrooms. It was very frustrating watching this film from an outsider's point of view because I felt bad for what M. Marin was going through.
I related to Khoumba when she asked M.Marin why he chose the name 'Bill' as it is a 'whitey' name. I remember we asked the same question in one of my classrooms, but my teacher had made an effort in being more inclusive by including names like "Mohamad", "Shanice", and "Abdi" on tests. And Khoumba is right,the majority of the class represents visible minorities, yet the name chosen did not reflect those in the classroom. I liked how M. Marin addressed the issue and didn't ignore it. He address many issues in the classroom that come up (such as when the students question his sexual orientation) even though they have absolutely nothing to do with French.
I found it frustrating to watch the scene with the staff meeting. They attempted to discuss a punishment system which would closely reflect the driving license permit point system. That is, students would start with 6 points and would lose one to two points when they would misbehave. One of the parent representatives criticized this because the teachers only condemn the students and do not praise them. She suggested that maybe they reward students for their good behaviour. The meeting was painstakingly boring and useless, as they did not reach a verdict, but instead, started discussing a "more important issue in the school"- the staff coffee machine. I thought this scene was a joke.
To be honest, I wouldn't know what to do in M. Marin's position. It is evident that he tries very hard to teach and to communicate with his students throughout the film. He even tries to get his students to make self portraits in hopes of getting to know his students better. I don't want to criticize M. Marin and say that he could have made a better effort by trying to get to know his students outside of the classroom. They already made his in-school experience very poor and I didn't expect M. Marin to try any harder to try to connect to these students. Honestly, his classroom feels like an endless and long journey.