Gentle, Not-So-Subtle “Suggestions”

My students are preparing for their big term paper. They are getting ready for that one last final thing before a long break between semesters is granted to them if they’ve been good boys and girls. They know that the term paper will cover the information in the entire book. They’ll have to write about a film and they’ll need to use all of that information to analyze it effectively. Little did they know that the teacher had something else in store for them…

The class is large (more than 400 students) and due to that we don’t take attendance because by the time we would get finished the class would be half over. The students, then, enjoy a certain amount of anonymity. So much so that they don’t think twice about leaving if they don’t like the type of film we’re showing that day. The en masse exodus only occurred once during a silent, expressionistic, foreign film. About half of the class had left by the films end. Typically the big term paper only covers one film. This time, because of the number of students who decided that they didn’t need to see a certain film, the term paper will cover two films.

Now, why am I telling you this? If you’re a student you may be thinking something like, “You see… all teachers are vindictive meanies!” I’d like you to consider a slightly different perspective that goes something like this: “The teacher must have really wanted us to learn something by watching that film and been disappointed when we refused to even try.” Now that’s a different perspective.

So, in the document describing how this assignment will now be structured this semester I gently, and not-so-subtly, suggested that the students had made a mistake by intentionally leaving during that film. In a way, I’m being funny. In another way, I’m being serious. It’s never a good idea to leave class. I’m not being mean. There’s something I wanted you to learn. You’re still going to learn it. And, while we’re at it, learn a life lesson about education: the thing you skip will be important. It always is. “Did I miss anything yesterday?” “Yes. You always miss something. You always miss something.”