If one was not aware of how much influence a teacher and a school system can have on shaping a student’s future, they should definitely have some sort of idea after watching this movie. To me, it was a visual reiteration of this fact. A student was expelled and possibly dropped-out—or in this case, forced to drop-out by his father—not because of his direct behaviour but due in large to an obvious shortcoming from the system in place at his school and the unethical behaviours exercised by his teacher. Although I really felt as a student teacher I shouldn’t be in any place to judge, here are my thoughts about the main factors that led to Suleiman’s expulsion, which in my opinion is the main highlight of the movie:
The Teacher, Mr. Marin: It was obvious from the first day of class that Mr. Marin invested minimal, if any at all, time preparing for his course and deciding upon clear classroom management guidelines to put in place. Instead of being a positive role model and exercising professional ethics in his classroom, I felt he actually strived for the opposite and didn’t know where to draw the line. His first impression was that of a “mean boss” rather than a “leader/coach.” He constantly teased his students, embarrassed them, and created an overall negative environment whereby name-calling evolved to become part of regular class routine without even initiating his minimal response. Although it was apparent that he was in fact well rounded with the content material of the subject, I still was not a fan. He placed students on the spot and pressured them to answer his questions without using his professional judgement to notice that they felt uncomfortable being in this position because of a much deeper issue that needed to be addressed one-on-one. His teaching approach was also more of a “thank you and goodnight” style as he tended to explain major assignments last-minute as the students walked out the door, and not really caring to find out if they actually understood it.
On the positive side, I noticed that he obviously did care for his students when he made a small but sincere effort to discuss Khoumba’s behavioural problem, and continually defended Suleiman at staff meetings. But, to care for students, in my opinion, is to respect their trust in you in investing appropriate time to plan for their learning experience and provide them with a safe and healthy learning environment.
Overall, all those mistakes on his behalf, which were also left unaddressed by the school, added up and paved the path to a perfect storm which victimized Suleiman and as a result cost him his future. While Mr. Marin changed his approach and his behaviour after this incident, it obviously was a little too late for Suleiman.
The School: I’m sure I’m not alone when I ask: what was the school thinking when they decided to have two student representatives attend their conference as they broke to pieces every single student?!! This was a major factor behind the storm. Of course they were going to inform their fellow-students about the conversations that took place in that meeting and miscommunicate most of it along the way! The principal, who is supposed to be the leader, obviously lacked leadership skills and as a result created a system that was by no means inline or in favour of student needs. Instead of investing proper time to discuss actual student issues, he allowed for subjects such as that of “the coffee machine” to take place in those meetings. It came as no surprise that Suleiman’s behaviour was going to result in his expulsion as most of the his solutions in addressing student problems resulted in further disciplinary actions.