Half-way through part two of Children Full of Life, classroom conversation takes what I thought would be a predictable return to the status quo. The teacher takes his place at the front of the class and talks at the students. The words are unfamiliar, but the rhythms of the speech, and the straight-through, vacant stares from the students seems only one step removed from some classrooms I have taught in. But then something happens. The teacher stops talking and asks the students to think.

As the title suggests, Children Full of Life is a little aw-shucks easy; the story is told through narration rather than editing, unlike Etre et Avoir (To Be and to Have), a brilliant documentary set in a very small French primary school. I showed the latter film to my students and they were able to follow, cheer even, for their favourite students, without understanding a word, merely by reading the body language, tone of voice and facial gestures.

On my last day of school one of my favourite students, Satoki, a 10 year-old who’s just three foot tall, came to my classroom to tell me he was sad I was leaving, very sad; he said it over and over, but he couldn’t stop smiling. I was sad, too, but also had to smile.

It’s a difficult gig, being a kid.

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