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The Emperor’s Club (2002) is a movie drama telling the story of the life of a teacher, William Hundert. The plot is based on the short story The Palace Thief written by Ethan Canin. The events in the Emperor’s Club follow Hundert, who works at Saint Benedict’s boarding school for boys. The tightly-controlled life of the Classics teacher is filled with routine, but all goes out of hand when Sedgewick Bell, a son of a US Senator, enters his classroom. The moral opposition between the teacher and his student eventually develops in a close relationship. However, this relationship leads to Hundert making a mistake, which he regrets for the rest of his career.
The movie can provide an insight into the world of teaching to understand what the profession entails. Not only does one have to be prepared for lessons and know the subject brilliantly, dedication and passion are also imperative. By using the examples from the Emperor’s Club, this assignment will explore the use of different teaching strategies that the main character used in his teaching. These strategies will include behavior management, the engagement of students, and the level of power the protagonist utilizes in his position. These observed behavior management styles will be linked to the following three theories: J. Kounin’s Instructional Management, W. Glasser’s Choice Theory, and Quality Schools, and B. Rogers’ Positive Behaviour Leadership. In his teaching, Hundert implements a range of approaches to adapt to the context of the classroom, which means that his style is mixed.
Observed Behaviour Management Strategies and Techniques
Schoolwide positive behavior support (SWPBS) can be witnessed in the boarding school’s rules and practices. It is an efficient system that seeks to improve academic performance, promote safety, and decrease problem behaviors (Kincaid et al. 174). This can be seen when Hundert makes evening rounds in the dormitories of the boys, ensuring that everyone is following the guidelines for getting to sleep by 9 o’clock and appropriate discipline is being followed.
In the early scenes, Hundert encounters a student walking across the grass, rather than a path, causing them to accidentally collide. Hundert uses this opportunity to use cognitive-behavioral intervention as a preventive measure for behavior problems. Students are taught to problem solve with an understanding of how to deal with any dysfunctions and emotional challenges. It is critical to help students to develop self-management of any negative behavior (Smith and Daunic 72). Hundert uses this approach with the student by using the incident as an example to teach correct behavior while encouraging further compliance through motivational words.
Hundert practices family-school collaboration to achieve positive behavior support when he meets with Bell’s father, addressing the student’s behavior. It is an appropriate method of behavior management as all relevant stakeholders should be actively involved in the educational and disciplinary process. Parent involvement can significantly influence the behavior patterns of children. However, there is a significant risk of unintended negative consequences or a difference of perception between teacher and parent (Minke and Anderson 182). The family involvement had a positive impact at first on Bell’s behavior but inherently did not change the underlying issue of his character since the father refused to allow Hundert to intervene outside the educational process.
In one of the first-class sessions, Mr. Hundert jokingly declares, “Tyranny is what we have in this classroom, and it works” (The Emperor’s Club). The boarding school is inherently based on a structure where educators and administrators maintain responsibility for the students. This gave teachers more power than they would have in a traditional school setting. Furthermore, Mr. Hundert served as a class supervisor for the group, overlooking their out-of-class activities. The staff set the rules, punishments, and curriculum for the boys which they were obliged to follow with the fear of expulsion.
Meanwhile, the students maintain an indirect power through the influence of their parents. The school’s endowment and popularity directly depend upon the participation of families. Throughout the movie, the influence of parents that are powerful figures in the community is discussed. Particularly in the example of the primary antagonist, Bell, who can leverage his father’s position as a Senator to escape harsh punishment for atrocious behavior.
Teacher communication directly impacts student engagement due to the inherent influence on emotions in the classroom. If there is a lack of communication competence and clarity in verbal interaction, students report shame, boredom, and hopelessness. Meanwhile, a positive approach reflects enjoyment and hope. This is due to the emotional response theory which affects the learning process and classroom interactions (Mazer et al. 15). Mr. Hundert sought to establish a positive environment in the classroom by practicing clear communication with the students, honesty, and encouraging debate. Students were aware of expectations in the classroom and could also communicate with Mr. Hundert on a personal level, both inside and outside the classroom. Despite, the power dynamic favoring the instructor, the communication approach remained a tool that established a level of equity and balance to some extent which positively influenced the students.
Types of teacher power and approaches have been found to directly correlate with student empowerment, emotion, and behavior. The coercive power which seeks to punish and control the students is demotivational and lowers self-competency. However, the film protagonist displayed instances of legitimate power which presents the teacher’s authority to the students as a societal role, giving the right to direct students, but not force them. Such instructors are described as strict and upright, but displaying high charisma, moral character, and even pleasant personality. Additionally, Mr. Hundert displayed instances of referent power, which is the student’s positive regard for and identification with the teacher, establishing a personal connection. Furthermore, reward power was evident which seeks to empower the students as they receive affirmation and support from the instructor that led to improved self-perception and performance (Diaz et al. 8).
As an instructor, Mr. Hundert was greatly respected and revered by his students, as suggested by the film’s plot in the events of the past and present-day when they have grown up. Mr. Hundert displayed character and attitude that established authority, but it was not misused and rarely punished students. Instead, he utilized it to create teachable moments for all students, including Bell, when mistakes were made. The theory of Congruent Communication is implemented in the classroom, as Mr. Hundert greatly encourages student autonomy and awareness of their actions. This is evident particularly in the moral guidance, as Hundert utilizes history to promote character development in the boys, building self-discipline and positive decision-making capabilities. During the first lesson, he provides an example of Shutruk Nahunte, who despite his great ambition and conquests failed to be remembered by history because of his lack of contributions. From the initial stages, this provides a powerful influence and encouragement for the boys who realize that they must be meaningful and contributing members of the community and history to be recognized, rather than getting caught up in the hubris of ambition like Bell.
Alignment of Theorists
Mr. Hundert utilizes a mixed style of teaching discipline in classroom management and interaction with students. Therefore, he integrates the personality and methods from various styles of classroom leadership to demonstrate a hybrid approach to achieve students’ best interests and fulfill their learning needs. It is important to note that the following theoretical models are all focused on promoting student autonomy, self-discipline, and responsibility for behavior. Mr. Hundert’s approach of promoting moral character growth in a non-forceful manner fits within the theories that emphasize encouragement and teaching by example.
Jacob Kounin’s Instructional Management theory states that is managed through effective lesson planning techniques which ensure continuity and smoothness of the lesson, leaving students no time or interest for misbehavior. Instructional management can consist of consistent daily structure and routines, allocation of material, and control of seating charts. This approach is strongly dependent on teacher efficacy and willingness to try different instructional approaches. It ultimately sets the atmosphere in the classroom which influences student behavior stressors. The instructional momentum is a characteristic of well-planned lessons and little off-task behavior (Martin et al. 547). According to Kounin, the group management approach outlined by theory allows to program for individual differences and creates a flow of instruction and classroom environment that helps certain students (Emmer and Stough 104).
These classroom management techniques can be seen in Mr. Hurbert’s approach that attempts to diversify a relatively dull subject of history in his lesson plans to promote engagement. Students participate in activities such as dressing in togas or reading parts from a play to recreate historical events. Meanwhile, Mr. Hurbert uses this lesson management to impart personal lessons upon difficult students such as Bell, when assigning him a vital role in the play reading activity that stipulates an important debate and critical thought on morality. For the most part, Hurbert is successful in utilizing this theoretical approach. However, misbehavior on behalf of Bell persists despite any attempts for his inclusion. Nevertheless, Hundert believes that “however much we stumble, it is a teacher’s burden to always hope that with learning a boy’s character might be changed, and so the destiny of a man” (The Emperor’s Club).
Choice Theory and Quality Schools developed by William Glasser focuses on instructors and schools meeting the needs of students so they can succeed. Instruction is aimed at encouraging the students and providing the tools for academic achievement. The high quality of education must inherently promote student self-efficacy which is a complex cognitive process that impacts individual choices and behavior. Therefore, Glasser’s Choice Theory is meant for students to understand personal behaviors and the impact on others, practicing internal control and responsibility. Meanwhile, teachers are lead managers that should cooperate rather than be the authority and offer encouragement instead of punishment. This helps to form relationships based on mutual trust and respect (Motaghedifard et al. 47).
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Mr. Hundert greatly utilizes this approach in his instruction, emphasizing the importance of morality and consequence within an individual’s choice. He attempts to bestow this theme upon his students through the use of historical and literary examples. When the boys are caught after sneaking out, Mr. Hundert states that the code of the academy should be followed as it represents their honor and dignity as students, impacting both theirs and the school’s reputation. Therefore, he can highlight the impact of their behavior and communicate with them as fellow gentlemen with a similar code of honor, which impacts the student’s understanding of individual self-efficacy.
Bill Rogers’ Positive Behaviour Leadership theory is defined by the teacher serving as the primary and facilitative role model for ethical behavior in the classroom. The system is based on principles of shared rights and responsibilities as well as clear communication of expectations. Disruptive students are assisted in learning better behaviors and encouraged to observe how changes can benefit them. Discipline encourages empowerment and accountability for actions but avoids direct punishment. The tone of the classroom should remain positive and consistent, as preventative strategies can be used to manage behavior. Conflict resolution and individual contact with the student are encouraged (Arthur-Kelly et al. 23).
This theoretical approach is pragmatic regarding school behavior management, which Mr. Hundert utilizes to his advantage. He creates an atmosphere of accountability that respects the rights of all students to learning and safety. Those that violate such measures face the consequences. Hundert creates a culture and tone in the school based on a certain behavioral agreement and seeks to use appropriate interventions with Bell such as personal meetings and attempts at preventive strategies. Meanwhile, Hundert displays dignity and patients that serve as a model for the students, empowering them to shared responsibility and commitment to learning.
The Emperor’s Club is an empowering educational and coming-of-age film that demonstrates the positive aspects as well as challenges of the instruction process. Mr. Hundert is an experienced teacher and honorable man that has a profound impact on the education and character formation of his students. He utilizes strategies that include behavior management, the engagement of students, and power influence. Furthermore, he competently encompasses theories of instructional management, choice theory, and positive behavior leadership in the educational process.
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The Emperor’s Club. Directed by Michael Hoffman. Performances by Kevin Kline, Universal Pictures, 2002.