Ben's students spoke of his intensity – the way he got so interested and involved in a topic that they couldn't help but be interested also. (1.14)
Ben truly loves what he does. He loves history and he loves teaching his students about it. His experiment, despite how badly it went, started as a way to get his students interested in the topic they were studying, World War II and the Holocaust. We can't blame him for that… can we?
It was said that [Ben] brought a new outlook to his classes […] [and] tried to teach his students the practical, relevant aspects of history. (1.14)
When we really get interested in something, it's because we feel a connection to it – it's relevant to our lives in some way. Convincing students that events from the past are relevant to their present is the battle every history teacher faces. Ben's creativity helps him face this battle. Of course, with The Wave, he gets a little <em>too </em>creative.
The Gordon High Community
[…] as one of the ninth graders told him last week, "Sure, I know my homework is important, Mr. Ross, but my social life comes first." (1.20)
Ben isn't a fan of this statement made at the beginning of the novel. He dreams of a world where all students would rather study than party. But when his students start making The Wave (a school activity!) their main social gig, he wonders if he should have been a little more careful what he wished for.
The idea intrigued Ross. Suppose, he thought […] he took a period, perhaps two periods and tried an experiment. Just to give his students a sampling, a taste of what life in Nazi Germany might have been like. (4.3)
Bad Idea Alert! <em>The Wave </em>is based on a movie that was based on short story (whew!) about real events that happened sometime in the late 1960s. In the twenty-first century, most teachers would immediately know this is a bad idea (maybe in part because of this book or other similar experiments that have been done since). The point here isn't that the experiment went wrong, but that the topic of life in Nazi Germany is way too complicated to be approached in this way.
The fierce exchange of questions and answers, the quest for perfect discipline – it had been infectious, and, in a way, mesmerizing. He had enjoyed his students' accomplishments. (5.100)
Ben really wants to see his students to do well in school. As the novel unfolds, his idea of what a good student is changes a lot. He comes to believe that things like being able to quickly answer a question or sit up straight in class aren't as important as he thought.
It was The Wave that had given Robert the courage to sit at that table with them and to join in the conversation. If she argued against The Wave now, she would really be implying that Robert should go sit by himself again and not be part of their "community." (8.73)
Being in school isn't just about being in class. Not fitting in, or feeling like you aren't fitting in, can make school a miserable experience. For some reason, it took the experience of The Wave to show the other students – even Laurie – that they weren't treating Robert well. Laurie's thought shows that she, too, has learned something valuable from The Wave, even though the experiment overall was a failure.
Ben noticed a marked improvement in preparation for class and in class participation, but he also noticed that there was less thinking behind the preparation. His students could glibly spit back answers as if by rote, but there was no analysis, no questioning on their part. (9.2)
Hmmm. Ben is making the argument that we really learn much more by asking questions and having discussions than we do by memorizing answers. Guess what: Shmoop totally agrees. Bet that one didn't surprise you.
A few students even said they thought the idea of increased discipline was good for them. That had surprised Ben. Over the years, discipline had become an increasingly personal responsibility. […] Perhaps one of the results of his experiment would be a general rebirth of school discipline. (9.6)
<em>The Wave </em>only covers nine days. During those nine days we see Ben's attitudes toward teaching go through many changes. In the earliest days of experiment, it seems to be making things easier for Ben and his students. It looks to us like the discipline is working because the students are imposing it on themselves. They find it useful, at least at first.
So much for the positive side of discipline, community, and action. He wondered, if he was successful in "deprogramming" the students from The Wave, how long it would be before he'd begin seeing sloppy homework again. He smiled. Is this the price you pay for freedom? (17.1)
By the end of the story, Ben understands that things like messy homework and coming late to class are nothing. He'd take that over The Wave any day. So would we.